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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






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