En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - March 17, 2006

From: Mendham, NJ
Region: Northeast
Topic: Turf
Title: Process of converting from lawn to wildflower meadow in New Jersey
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Dean Garrett


I live in northern New Jersey and have an acre of property which is currently a grassy lawn. I would like to make a meadow where the lawn is. What is the process to convert from a lawn to a meadow? Thank you.


The basic steps to converting a lawn to a meadow are:

1. Remove the lawn grass, which can involve letting it die through neglect, solarizing it, or mechanically/manually removing it en masse.
2. Assemble the native plant species by seed or plug, or allow native species to come in on their own.
3. Remove unwanted plants as they appear.

There seems to be consensus only on Step 3, which, unless there is a mass weed invasion, involves only hand or mechanical removal. There are several procedures for accomplishing steps 1 and 2, with particular disagreement over how much to disturb the soil.

Here are some internet resources that should help get you started:

The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center's Clearinghouse Publications Wildflower Meadow Gardening,” “Native Lawns,” and “Large Scale Wildflower Planting.”,

o The Native Plant Center at Westchester Community College in Valhalla, New York, offers a “Sunny Mini-Meadow Plant List with Advice on Planting”

o Native American Seed provides “Planting Tips For Native Grasses” and “How to Grow Native Wildflowers”.

And helpful books:

o Noah's Garden and Planting Noah's Garden, by Sara Stein, a New York gardener who created both an upland and a lowland meadow on her property. Chapter 16 of the second book contains specific instructions on “How To Kill a Lawn.”

o Gardening With Prairie Plants, by Sally Wasowski, covers an array of lawn-to-meadow projects.

For help with finding plants and seeds, contact the Native Plant Society of New Jersey and a nearby chapter of the Wild Ones, a largely northeastern organization dedicated to conserving and restoring the native landscape. It doesn't look like they have a New Jersey chapter at present, but there are active groups in Pennsylvania and New York. Some of their chapters get together to do group plantings and restorations, which could be useful for as large an area as yours.

As for what core species to use in your meadow, the grass most frequently mentioned for the Northeast is Broomsedge (Andropogon virginicus). Sara Stein planted only Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) to start one of her New York meadows, but several other native grasses and wildflowers came in later on their own. In Requiem for a Lawnmower, Sally and Andy Wasowski recommend that Northeasterners start with Broomsedge and various regional species of fleabane (Erigeron), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia), milkweed (Asclepias), beebalm (Monarda), coneflower (Echinacea), and Joe pye weed (Eupatorium).

Wild Bird Oasis in Medford, New Jersey, has an exciting variety of regionally native plants for sale and also offers an “environmental restoration” service. If you click on the “Native Plants” link on the left of their site, a list of different plant categories should appear. Click on “Herbaceous Plants for Medium to Dry Sites” to see what grasses, sedges, and wildflowers they carry.

You can also find more nurseries and seed companies that specialize in native plants of your area in the National Suppliers Directory.

More Turf Questions

Live oak sprouts in lawn and flower beds
March 06, 2008 - I have several live oak trees that keep putting up sprouts in my lawn and flower beds. Is there any way to prevent this ?
view the full question and answer

Low maintenance grass for shade in Conroe, TX
September 15, 2012 - What is the best low maintenance grass to plant in front lawn shaded, no traffic area?
view the full question and answer

Buffalograss as lawn replacement in Austin, TX
March 12, 2007 - Mr. Smarty Plants, I have just moved into a house that has a yard full of weeds. I was planning on killing the existing ground cover and starting buffalo grass, when I came upon several articles on...
view the full question and answer

Bermuda, not the only option in Memphis
November 04, 2014 - I'm building an energy efficient home in Memphis and want to extend that strategy to the landscaping. I'd like to plant native grasses, but this lot is surrounded by lots sodded with Bermuda grass....
view the full question and answer

Native grass lawn for San Antonio
June 25, 2011 - Dear Mr Smartyplants, I live outside of San Antonio and my question is in regards to putting in a native grass lawn. What type of soil should I put down? I've sprayed herbicide and was planning on ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center