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

Friday - October 01, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Groundcovers
Title: Native Groundcover for High Activity Location in Austin, TX
Answered by: Joan Singh

QUESTION:

Howdy! We live in South Austin and have a smallish backyard that we're perennially working on. We have two young, very active dogs that spend a lot of time RUNNING and we never can keep ground cover alive. We've mainly tried grass -- bermuda & rye. It always dies off, especially in July & August. We were wondering, is there a native plant we could use for ground cover that would be better off for a varied shade, high activity location that would work well in clay soil? Thanks,

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants ponders the combination of shade, high activity from the pitter patter of eight paws, and clay soils, and think we have the answer for you:  MULCH.

It is unlikely that your small yard will accommodate native grasses or groundcovers that can thrive under the conditions you described.  However, we have a plan to recommend: LANDSCAPING!

Let's look at this in detail.  Mulch such as decomposed granite or shredded wood fiber is a good way to establish a play area for frolicking canines.  It has the additional benefits of holding moisture in the ground, and protecting soil where the dogs "go".  For a large area, mulch can be purchased in bulk and delivered to your address, or bagged mulch is an option.  It will need to be replenished as it decomposes, but your yard will be less muddy when it rains.

Alternating different types of mulch in a pattern, such as wood fiber mulch under trees, and installing a path of decomposed granite mulch which can add texture and variety to your yard.

Shade-tolerant native plants can be found on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website by conducting a search.  Try this:  go to our home page, look in the upper right corner, and select PLANT DATABASE, and after that page opens, you can refine your search by selecting TEXAS, GENERAL APPEARANCE, then select HERB, then LIFE SPAN (All Durations); choose LIGHT REQUIREMENT (Does your yard have 2 hours of shade?  More?).  Then select SOIL MOISTURE. There will  be choices for BLOOM TIME (leaving this unselected will give a wide range); and finally, select HEIGHT. 

A variety of choices will allow you to choose what might be best  for your yard, among them is Calyptocarpus vialis (Straggler daisy) otherwise known as horseherb. It can fulfill your light and moisture requirements, but read on:  it is difficult to control!  This could be a fast remedy because it is easily established and can be mowed. On the other hand, straggler daisy can take over your yard and some folks consider it a weed.

Some more options:  Would you like to establish a small plant bed in a corner of your yard, or next to your house?  A native plant bed will uplift your dreary yard, and you will be ever so pleased with yourself when your landscape displays native plants.  Plants close to your house or in an area that receives the most sun can be protected with a short fence.  Container-grown plants carefully arranged will create interest and varienty for your landscaping. Your pups can be encouraged to run on established mulched paths between raised plant beds or other types of containers.

Here is a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer that not only addresses the same dog issue, but suggests some usable plants and has pictures. Another previous answer concerns keeping dogs and cats out of your garden. And one last word, on the health of your pets, read this previous answer on Plants that are Toxic to Dogs.

Our How-To Articles Undercover with Mulch and Container Gardening with Native Plants have some good suggestions.

 

 

 

More Groundcovers Questions

Groundcover for Southern California near the beach
February 27, 2011 - I'm in Southern California near the beach (3 miles away). I am looking for a front lawn ground cover that can stand many hours of daily direct sunlight, but will also get cool breezes off the ocean a...
view the full question and answer

Non-vascular moss between flagstones in Mechanicsburg PA
July 11, 2009 - We would like to plant moss between our flagstone. However, the moss will have full sun all day. Can you recommend a moss for Central Pennsylvania near Harrisburg?
view the full question and answer

Silver ponyfoot becoming invasive in College Station TX
May 08, 2013 - How can I control or get rid of an established Dichondra groundcover? I bought a few plants of D. argentea from your sale a few years ago, and in that time they've done really well in the area I plan...
view the full question and answer

Need suggestions for plants to put between stones on a path in Austin, TX
April 12, 2013 - I am looking for plants to put between stones on a path, which are low-an inch or two, green, low water and tolerate full sun in Austin, Texas
view the full question and answer

Erosion controlling Groundcover for Phenix AL
March 30, 2014 - Hi I am trying to find a grass or ground cover to control erosion on firing range berms which are 1:1 grade on a firing range outside of Phenix City AL. Sandy clay soil, direct sunlight almost all day...
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center