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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - August 13, 2010

From: Charleston, SC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Grass for Charleston SC
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hey Mr. Smarty Plants. I live in Charleston, SC and am having trouble with my grass. What is the best wear resistant grass to plant in my area and when is the best time to plant it?

ANSWER:

We have the feeling, when you say "wear resistant" grass that you are talking about lawn grasses. Most of the lawn grasses being widely used are non-native to North America. There are many lovely native grasses, but few of them are what you would call wear resistant or can be mowed down to lawn height. From our Conservation section, here is an article on Native Lawns, with comparisons between native and non-native lawn grasses. Two How-To Articles that you should read are Native Lawns:Buffalograss and Native Lawns: Multi-Species. Another problem you could encounter is that the native grasses that can be used for lawns need full sun, which we consider to be 6 or more hours of sun a day. 

Unfortunately, we found only two grasses native to South Carolina that are mentioned in the native lawns How-To Articles: Bouteloua hirsuta (hairy grama) and Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama) and we're not even sure they are native to Charleston County in USDA Hardiness Zone 8b, because the USDA Plant Profiles we usually check for a specific area had no information on those grasses in South Carolina. Our favorite native lawn grass, Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss) is not shown as growing in most of the southeastern states.

If you are in a Homeowner's Association, they are not going to like the taller native grasses, anyway. It looks like we may not be able to help you with native grasses; however, this website from Clemson University Cooperative Extension Selecting a Lawn Grass probably has some good non-native ideas. You also might consider contacting the Clemson University Cooperative Extension office for Charleston County.

 

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