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Saturday - February 19, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Wet & Shade in South Austin
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants - I live in south Austin (S. of Ben White) in a new development. Our houses are fairly close together, so there's little sun between them. The issue is that when it does rain, the ground is completely saturated and there is standing water which takes a while to drain. Sometimes the water is like a baby river. I'd like to replace the grass with ground cover that can be walked on and doesn't need mowing. Stepping stones might be ok. There is irrigation, but after it is used, the ground is really wet. The bottom line is we need something that will handle shade, wet, and dry. Thanks

ANSWER:

Mr Smarty Plants would like you to check with your builder and tell him about your problem with standing water. That would certainly not be good for your foundation; they should have arranged for drainage away from the house.  Perhaps a french drain might help, but that's as far as my building expertise goes.

Barring drainage fixes, we can still recommend some plants that might survive such a challenging environment.

Calyptocarpus vialis (Straggler daisy) is a ground cover that is very forgiving under most circumstances.  Phyla nodiflora (Texas frogfruit) is another groundcover that is very adaptable.  Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) is a grass that can take shade and another attractive plant, similar to grass, is Carex texensis (Texas sedge),

                    
Carex texensis
                    Chasmanthium latifolium             Calyptocarpus vialis

 Shrubs or low plants that will give some color are Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine), the red or yellow variety; Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (Coralberry), a shrub; Viola sororia (Missouri violet); Thelypteris kunthii (Wood fern); another shrub would be Malvaviscus arboreus (Turkscap).  Slightly taller plants include Physostegia virginiana (Fall obedient plant) and even Sabal minor (Dwarf palmetto).

                      
Physostegia virginiana
          Thelypteris kunthii                 Aquilegia canadensis

  You may enjoy reading links to some similar questions that have been asked: Rain garden for South Austin  [appears to be quite similar to your situation!],  Evergreen shrub for part shade in AustinTexas natives that are shade tolerant for Austin, TX, Need plants with red flowers to grow in shaded area in yard in Austin.

All the best for a good fix for your situation!    MSP

 

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