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 - December 22, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Native ornamental grass for part shade in Austin
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hi. I am looking for a fast-growing hardy ornamental grass that will grow in partial shade in south Austin that is not considered invasive. Unfortunately I purchased a few of the Pennisetum setaceum rubirem and intended to plant them, but have since read that they may be invasive in Austin. Is this true? If so, can you recommend a readily available native variety of hardy, fast growing ornamental grass? I have noticed in the past you make recommendations for plants that are impossible to find. Thanks.

ANSWER:

Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' (I couldn't find a variety called 'Rubirem') is a variety of Pennisetum setaceum  (Fountain grass).  Although I couldn't find any references to its invasiveness in Austin or Texas, in particular, it is considered moderately or potentially invasive in Florida and the southern US and invasive in California. You are wise to be cautious about planting it in the Austin area. 

Most of the native grasses do best in full sun, but there are three that can be considered ornamental that will grow in partial shade or shade in the Austin area.  They are:

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) grows in part shade or shade. 

 Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass) will grow in sun, part shade or shade.  Both it and the inland sea oats are warm season grasses and can be planted from seeds or containers in early spring.

Nolina texana (Texas sacahuista) is not truly in the grass family (Family Poaceae), but it is very grass-like and prefers part shade.  It is evergreen; whereas, the two grasses die back in the wintertime.

All three of these should be readily available as plants in nurseries in the Austin area.  Please check our National Suppliers Directory for nurseries in the Austin area that specialize in native plants.  Some of them have web pages with lists of available plants and all of them have telephone numbers to contact them.  Seeds for the two grasses can be purchased online form Native American Seed in Junction.

Here are photos from our Image Gallery:


Chasmanthium latifolium


Sorghastrum nutans


Nolina texana

 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Replacement for grass under non-native weeping willow from Yorba Linda CA
April 24, 2012 - What would be a good replacement for the grass currently growing under a weeping willow? Something requiring low maintenance, the problem is with mowing over and around the roots.
view the full question and answer

Flowers for sunny and shady gardens in Cedar Hill TX
March 30, 2010 - Last year I spent way too much on flowers for my sunny and shady flower beds. They all died from the heat, even after constant watering. What flowers could I plant in sunny and shady flower beds that ...
view the full question and answer

Native grasses for dry shade in North Central Texas
March 09, 2008 - I live in North Central Texas and have an area that is 80% shade and a dry soil condition. What native grasses would be suitable for this location?
view the full question and answer

Erosion control for shady slope in Kentucky backyard
August 28, 2013 - I live in northern Kentucky (near Cincinnati). I have an area in my backyard that has slope. It is next to an ash tree and is very shady. Water erosion has washed away the top soil and pretty much no...
view the full question and answer

Hanging flowering plants in part shade in Denton, TX
September 18, 2008 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I'd like to hang 4"-6" pots with flowering plants from north-facing eaves. That area gets an hour or so of late-morning/noon sun. Also, my apt. faces a large courtyard so...
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