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?

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
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

Wednesday - November 24, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Tough grasses for shade
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

What kind of grass/groundcover can I put in our backyard that is shady/dry and has 50 lb. high energy dog traffic? Was considering Horse Herb but not sure, as it sounds like you can't get rid of it, if you don't like it. Also, how will I see the poop to scoop? Texas Sedge, in the City of Austin Landscape Plants Guide is listed as growing 6-8" high. This site has it at a foot, and the picture of it looked taller than 6-8". I am interested in it because it will withstand foot traffic. Also, I have a couple of boggy areas that have appeared (one with a couple of puddles that stay there). This started after the bull creek flood - sopping wet black mud/muck. The garden guy on the radio suggested Wood Fern or Inland Sea Oats. I have procured some seeds of the Inland Sea Oats and possibly some small plants. The fern didn't sound like it would withstand foot traffic. We backup to a natural area-NW Austin. The St. Augustine sod we planted in the Spring is all but done for. This area has some fill dirt on top; the boggy areas don't. Also, if you could please tell me where I might find your suggested plants/seeds,including the Texas Sedge (if that is a viable option), I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks,

ANSWER:

Have you considered Astroturf? But wait, that hasn't been designated a native species (yet).

Finding a pleasing ground cover under your conditions is challenging. I like your idea of sedges. Carex planostachys (Cedar sedge) is a common sedge growing wild under cedars in the Austin area, but it may be hard to find seeds or inexpensive plants. An apparently similar sedge is Lawn Sedge, Carex leavenwothii, available from Pat McNeal, a local grower. Sedges might have to be put in as plugs of the intact plant rather than seed.

A lot of people like the looks of Horse Herb, also known as Calyptocarpus vialis (Straggler daisy). It would nicely complement your sedges and is not so invasive that you couldn't get rid of it by acting promptly if it doesn't satisfy you. It is low-growing and therefore scoop-friendly.

If you do not want to fill in the boggy spots in your yard, consider Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge) or Carex texensis (Texas sedge), both of which prefer moist soil. These latter two grow somewhat taller then Lawn Sedge. Carex texensis is available from a California grower, Greenlee Nursery. Thelypteris kunthii (Wood fern) would look good if planted out of the direct path of your pooch. Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) is also a good bet. During the summer it sends up flowering heads to about two feet, so it too should be placed out of the beaten path. But it is tough, and the seed heads are very attractive.

Click on the underlined plant names above for more information on each. I attach representative images below.

 

From the Image Gallery


Cedar sedge
Carex planostachys

Straggler daisy
Calyptocarpus vialis

Wood fern
Thelypteris kunthii

Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Native plants for small pots in sun in Austin
January 24, 2011 - Hello Mr. Smarty Plants! We are renting our house, so while we have a yard, the landlord would prefer us to only add plants to his landscaping in pots. I have filled some large ones, but have been una...
view the full question and answer

Plants for shade native to New York
June 13, 2006 - I am gradually trying to convert my garden to all natives. I am working in a shaded area under a maple tree. Are there any varieties of epimediums/barrenwort or hellebores that are native to the nor...
view the full question and answer

Recommendations for native shade plants in sandy soil
July 30, 2007 - I live in Rockport, TX, and would like to plant a small, shaded triangular corner (bounded on 2 sides by wooden fence)in my front yard. The area has limited southern exposure due to shading by live o...
view the full question and answer

Native alternatives for Japanese maple
September 05, 2007 - Hi, I am a landscaper trying to create a landscape in a shaded area with no sun. The person likes a Acer palmatum, but I am not sure it will grow there. We live in South Lake Tahoe. So I know of some ...
view the full question and answer

Flowering shrub for part shade in Southern California
September 10, 2009 - What shrubs would be able to flourish in morning shade but deal with afternoon sun and 90 plus degrees in the summer months in Southern California? I would like a shrub that is about 5 ft. tall and 3 ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center