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?

Share

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
1 rating

Tuesday - September 07, 2010

From: Carthage, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Turf
Title: Need shade friendly native grass for lawn under pine trees in Carthage, TX.
Answered by: Marilyn Kircus

QUESTION:

My home is situated on six acres of woods in the East Texas piney woods area. Other than a few beds I have tried to plant, the yard has not been landscaped. I am trying to cover dirt and weeds in a part-sun/ part-shade area on the back and one side of the house. I do realize that I will have to improve the soil since it is mostly heavy clay left by the builders of the house. Does the Native American Seed Company's Shade-friendly Grass Mix flourish in my part of Texas? If I am going to invest the time and money on the seed, I want to be sure I do the right thing, successful and environmentally friendly. Also if I choose this seed, should I wait until spring to seed the area or can I do it in September/October?

ANSWER:

I called Native American Seed and asked about growing the shade - friendly grass mix in your area.  They said it would grow there and would make a good meadow but might not be suitable for use as a turf grass.  It needs at least two flushes of growth a year.  So you could mow it at the end of spring and again at the end of summer.  Also, if your area gets too much rain and the soil stays too moist, some of the grasses will overgrow others.  This will be especially true of Inland Sea Oats.  But if you plan to have a little prairie instead of a lawn, this mix would work well with some prairie flowers. You may have to grow something else directly under your trees, in the deepest shade or just mulch there. 

They also suggested that you use Texas bluegrass for a lawn grass because it takes cutting but stays short and may not need much mowing.  Here is a description of Poa arachnifera (Texas bluegrass) from the Native Plant Database. However, a mix of grasses is usually more successful because different ones will colonize different micro-climates within your yard.  

Another choice for you might be the Southeast Native Grass Mix from Hancock Native Seed Company.  This grass is described as good all the way from North Carolina to Florida to east Texas. You could also talk to them about using it as a lawn grass, if that is your intention.  This can also be mixed with wildflowers. 

Grass seed should be planted in the spring according to the tips for growing grass from  American Native Seeds. But you need to spend time getting rid of weeds that came with the fill dirt, getting a soil test, and either planting a cover crop such as cereal rye or just mulching heavily and then tilling the mulch in before planting in the spring.  You can find the directions for preparing a soil sample for testing and the form you need to fill out to send it in.  You can use a quart sized plastic bag and put 2-3 cups of your prepared dry sample in it, then put that in a small box.   

And from personal knowledge, I suggest that you be sure to kill/remove every plant from your area, especially Burmuda grass which may be a contaminant in the soil brought in by your builder or be coming into your yard from your neighbors.  In sun, it will outgrow almost anything .For more information consult the following:

Easy Lawns: Low Maintenance Native Grasses for Gardeners Everywhere by several authors.

 

More Turf Questions

How to control Yellow Woodsorrel in Habiturf?
March 19, 2013 - Last year we planted Habiturf in our front lawn and prepared the ground as directed with organic compost. This year we have an infestation of low growing yellow oxalis which we believe came in with t...
view the full question and answer

Small perennials & grasses for a naturalized lawn
October 26, 2009 - I am looking for native perennials and grasses that will grow no more than 8 inches tall that can be used in a naturalized lawn in Michigan. What 5 plants would be your first choice?
view the full question and answer

Buffalograss to replace non-native St. Augustine lawn in Rockport TX
February 16, 2010 - I currently have a St. Augustine lawn that is being overtaken by weeds. I would like to replace it with buffalo grass. How do I prepare my lawn in order to seed it with the buffalo grass and how tol...
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

Garden problems from Centreville VA
July 23, 2011 - Plants die, trees won't grow. I've replaced the soil (6") twice. Replaced grass twice and planted new plants and tree. After two yrs, the tree is still the same size and the flowering bushes nea...
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center