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?


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

Thursday - December 02, 2010

From: Round Rock, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Propagation
Title: Native grass for Austin to sow in the early spring
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Stephen Scace


What is the best native grass seed to plant in the Austin area? What is the best time of year to plant? I'll be planting in an area that has no real established grass.


Mr. Smarty Plants is assuming that you want a lawn so we'll give our recommendations on turf grass first.

If your area is sunny (at least 6 hours per day) with caliche, clay or loam (not sand), then we would highly recommend the mixture of Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss), Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama) and Hilaria belangeri (curly-mesquite).  This is the mixture that the Wildflower Center research has shown to work best for native lawns for grass density and for keeping out weeds.  You can find seeds for sale at Native American Seed in Junction, Texas.  You might want to consider their Thunder Turf mix which includes these three native sun turf grasses.  Native American Seed has another mix, Native Sun Turfgrass, that includes just the buffalograss and the blue grama.  You can also buy each of these grasses separately.  I recommend that you read our How to Article, Native Lawns: Multi-species, that has specific instructions for establishing your native lawn with specifics on watering, mowing and feeding it.  You might also want to read Native American Seed's article, Planting Tips for Native Grasses, for more information on preparing the site and caring for your new native lawn. Sow these grasses in the early spring.

If your lawn is not sunny, there is really only one native grass that thrives in the shade, Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats). It is not a turfgrass; it grows two to four feet tall and doesn't respond well to mowing. It is lovely and holds the soil well. It is perennial, but it dies back to the ground each year. There are other possibilities for turf-like lawn in the shade—the sedges, which are very grass-like and grow well in the shade.  Here are a few:

Carex planostachys (cedar sedge) - about 6 inches, low water use, part shade

Carex texensis (Texas sedge) - 10 to 12 inches, medium water use, sun or part shade

Carex cherokeensis (Cherokee sedge) - 12 to 18 inches, medium water use, part shade

If you aren't looking for a turf lawn but just want native grasses, here are some recommendations.  Most of these will grow in sun and part shade:

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama) - State Grass of Texas, medium water use, sun or part shade 

 Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass) - medium water use, sun, part shade or shade

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem) - low water use, sun or part shade

Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass) - medium water use, sun or part shade

Andropogon gerardii (Big bluestem) - low to medium water use, sun or part shade

All of the grasses listed above are warm season grasses and should be planted in the early spring.   Seeds for sedges are not readily available so you would need to check with local nurseries for the availability of plants.  You can find nurseries in the Austin area that specialize in native plants in our National Suppliers Directory.

Bouteloua dactyloides

Bouteloua gracilis

Hilaria belangeri

Chasmanthium latifolium

Carex planostachys

Carex texensis

Carex cherokeensis

Bouteloua curtipendula

Sorghastrum nutans

Schizachyrium scoparium

Panicum virgatum

Andropogon gerardii






More Propagation Questions

Propagation of Indian Paintbrush
March 28, 2005 - I have tried for years to propagate Indian Paintbrush and have had no luck-started inside or outside in the fall down't seem to matter. What can I do to get them to grow?
view the full question and answer

Propagation of Lime Prickly Ash in Austin
March 22, 2010 - We found only one small what we think is Zanthoxylum fagara or Lime Prickly Ash, Colima on our 8 acres, and the deer had apparently recently broken the main stem. I quickly made 6 or 7 cuttings, dippe...
view the full question and answer

Growing Big Red Sage from Seed in San Antonio
November 04, 2010 - I harvested some seed this year from my Big Red Salvia (Salvia penstemonoides). I have searched multiple sites looking for information on growing this wonderful salvia but cannot locate any informati...
view the full question and answer

What kind of alcohol to use with Passiflora seeds?
March 12, 2010 - Hi, I read a question and answer related to gernmination of passiflora incarnata. You recommended a 5% alcohol/water solution to soak the seeds prior to sowing. I just want to make sure that you are...
view the full question and answer

Will horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis) survive planting in July
July 14, 2008 - I live in Southwest Austin and I am planting horseherb groundcover in my back yard that is part-shade. Can I plant this right now (July) or is it too hot to plant?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center