En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - October 14, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Grasses for Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

For Southwest Austin in October, what is the best grass to to plant at this time of year? Three quarters of the property is in Bermuda but the back quarter-acre is weeds. We are having it excavated and want to plant grass. What do you suggest?

ANSWER:

We have two How-To Articles that directly address your questions, including time to plant (Spring, which is when the seeds will germinate) and preparation of the soil. The first is Native Lawns: Buffalograss and the second Native Lawns: Multi-species. These articles result from years of experience and research by the Wildflower Center and are the best recommendations for the Austin area.

However, (isn't there always a "however"?), these are all sun grasses, needing 6 or more hours of sun a day to thrive. There are many attractive native grasses suitable for shade or part shade in a landscape, but these are mostly clumping grasses, not lawn grasses which can be mowed down into a lawn, and certainly not tolerant of foot traffic. The bermudagrass you already have is non-native, invasive and one of the worst weeds in the South. St. Augustine, which can tolerate some shade as the bermudagrass cannot, is also a non-native which requires a great deal of water and fertilizer in order to survive. If you are interested in a more natural area, not a lawn area, on your property, we suggest you read our How-To Article Meadow Gardening. With this, you can combine taller grasses and wildflowers, for a casual nature-friendly area. We will list for you some of our favorite plants for meadows. You can follow the plant links of each to learn the light, moisture and soil needs for that plant, as well as its projected size.

First, go to Recommended Species, and click on Central Texas on the map. You will be presented with a list of the native plants recommended for this area. Using the sidebar menu on the right-hand side of the page, select first on "herbs" (herbaceous blooming plants). Then, going down the sidebar, select how much sunlight you have in a chosen area, how moist or dry your soil is, and "duration." On "duration" you can either leave it for all durations, or choose "perennial" for plants that will come back every year, and "annual" for plants that will self-seed. Many wildflowers are annuals, and when they have finished blooming and died back, there is room for other plants to fill the spaces. Click on Narrow Your Search; going down the resultant list of plants you can choose any one you are interested in and click on the plant link. This takes you to the page on that particular plant, which will give you information on height, whether it is evergreen, bloom time and color, and usually growing conditions and/or progation instructions. You will repeat this process for "grasses and grass-like plants." We are going to use this process to choose some suggested herbaceous plants and grasses for your area; we did not select on soil moisture, duration or sun exposure, and got 65 results for the herbaceous blooming plants and 17 for the grasses. The more qualifications you put in, the fewer selections you will get.

Herbaceous blooming plants for Austin:

Amblyolepis setigera (Huisache daisy)

Asclepias viridiflora (Green milkweed)

Chamaecrista fasciculata var. fasciculata (Partridge pea)

Echinacea purpurea (Eastern purple coneflower)

Grasses or Grass-like Plants for Austin:

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Muhlenbergia lindheimeri (Lindheimer's muhly)

Nolina texana (Texas sacahuista)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem) 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Amblyolepis setigera


Asclepias viridiflora


Chamaecrista fasciculata var. fasciculata


Echinacea purpurea


Muhlenbergia lindheimeri


Nolina texana


Schizachyrium scoparium


Chasmanthium latifolium

 


 

 

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Restoring disturbed land in Marshall, TX.
December 04, 2014 - I have a 30 acre tract of land in Marshall, Texas. The oil company has turned 2-3 acres surrounding the rig into gravel. I would like to return the gravel area to green space. Any suggestions on gras...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a children's playground
April 20, 2015 - We have extensive native gardens on our 2 acre property, but my children want a garden of their own with plants they can hide under and that are good for imaginative play. Are there any native plants...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a Narrow Fence Line in TN
February 03, 2015 - I have a very specific and difficult planting question. I have a narrow strip (about 2 feet at the widest) between my back privacy fence and a wire fence that marks the edge of my property. It is dire...
view the full question and answer

Alternative for sedges for turf-like lawn in shade
October 25, 2013 - When it comes to a turf-like lawn in shade, is it pretty much sedges or nothing among native options? By the way, I write from up north here in Iowa. Thanks!
view the full question and answer

Wildflower meadow for birds
September 19, 2008 - I put in a wildflower feed plot for the song birds 3 years ago. We prepared the bed by first using Round Up to kill all the grass then lightly tilled to scratch the surface and planted the wildflower ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center