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
2 ratings

Saturday - March 12, 2011

From: Greenbrier, TN
Region: Southeast
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Recommendations for plants under sugar maple (Acer saccharum) tree
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

We have an area under sugar maple trees and near white pines. We cannot get any grass to grow. There is little moisture and no sun in the summer. We live 25 miles north of Nashville, TN. Can you recommend a plant we could use in this area.

ANSWER:

Allelopathy (negative effects on growth of other plant species from chemicals produced by another) is listed as strong to moderate for the roots of  Acer saccharum (Sugar maple) in an article, Potential Allelopath in Different Tree Species, by Kim Coder from the Warnell School of Forest Resources.  Pinus strobus (Eastern white pine) is on the same list with a slight allelopathic effect from its roots.  This may be one of the reasons you aren't able to grow grass under your sugar maples.  However, the fact that it is dry and very shady underneath the tree is probably the more serious barrier to growing many plants.

We can do a search in our Native Plant Database for plants that will tolerate dry soils and shade (less than 2 hours of sun per day) by doing a COMBINATION SEARCH and choosing Tennessee from the Select State or Province list, then 'Shade - less than 2 hours of sun per day' from Light requirement and 'Dry - soil does not exhibit visible signs of moisture' from Soil moisture.

Here are some possibilities for plants from that list that should work for you.  I wasn't able to find information, however, about native plants that withstand possible allelopathic effects of sugar maple roots so I can't be absolutely positive that this won't be a problem.  Also, you need to realize that you will have to provide some water at first to get these plants established.

Many sedges such as Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge) and Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge), that are very grass-like, will do well in dry shade.

One grass that grows very well in the shade and is very attractive is Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats).  It does like a moderate amount of moisture, however, but perhaps your area would have enough.

Here are some other low-growing plants from the list that do well in dry shade.

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

 Gaultheria procumbens (Checkerberry)

Hypericum prolificum (Shrubby St. Johnswort)

Pteridium aquilinum (Western bracken fern)

Salvia urticifolia (Nettleleaf sage)

Here are photos from our Image Gallery: 


Carex blanda


Carex pensylvanica


Chasmanthium latifolium


Aquilegia canadensis


Gaultheria procumbens


Hypericum prolificum


Pteridium aquilinum


Salvia urticifolia

 


 

 

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Native lawn solution for Southeast Texas from Missouri City TX
May 05, 2012 - I noticed the native lawn article regarding Habiturf states it is for "North, West and Central Texas". What is the recommended native lawn solution for Southeast Texas/Gulf Coast (Houston/Galveston...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for shady area in north Texas
July 29, 2013 - I'm looking for a ground cover for a mostly shady area where St. Augustine won't grow. I don't want the ground cover to overtake my established St. Augustine in the rest of the yard. The area is un...
view the full question and answer

When to stop mowing Habiturf for seeding from Austin
November 14, 2012 - I planted a native Habiturf lawn in my back yard last spring/summer and it is doing very well. The how-to mentions allowing the turf to seed out once per year to help maintain the lawn. Is there a bes...
view the full question and answer

Established Habiturf in the DFW area from Allen TX
May 15, 2012 - Where can I see an established Habiturf in the DFW area? There are two sites that are obviously DFW (White Rock Lake and Round Rock) mentioned in Ask Mr Smartyplants, but no addresses. If no sites ar...
view the full question and answer

Plants to prevent creekside erosion in Nacogdoches County, Texas
December 09, 2014 - I am looking for some advice on plants native to Texas that can help prevent erosion. I own a wooded lot with a creek and would like to consolidate the sides of the creek against potential erosion. I...
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center