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Thursday - October 14, 2010

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


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?


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




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