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

Procedure for planting buffalograss
June 30, 2009 - I would like to get a full schedule of events/actions for planting a lawn with buffalo grass. The area is already a lawn, though mostly weeds. It is June/July. First, cover area to be seeded with b...
view the full question and answer

Buffalo grass and other native grass for lawn in Central Texas
March 17, 2008 - Hi, I live in Cedar Park, TX - recently moved to into a newly built house. I wanted to put some native grass (like buffalo) in the back yard. - My back yard has slope (away from house) and front...
view the full question and answer

Using Pensylvania Sedge in Dover, DE.
June 11, 2014 - Regarding Pennsylvania sedge, I am thinking of planting the sedge along our driveway, which is under trees and not reached by our sprinkler system. Across the driveway, there is lawn. Is it likely tha...
view the full question and answer

Soil Loosener/Pollinator Plants for Houston
August 11, 2014 - I am trying to establish a mostly-native pollinator way-station in a recently purchased lot in a 100 year old neighborhood in Houston. Much of the property has a thick layer of oyster shell four to si...
view the full question and answer

Sources for native plants from Austin TX
December 19, 2012 - Hello. I am currently planning a Texas native plant garden. Unfortunately, I cannot seem to find the seeds/bulbs/roots/plants for some of the natives at local nurseries: Indian Ricegrass (Achnatherum ...
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