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Mr. Smarty Plants - Ground Cover for Austin

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Friday - March 18, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Groundcovers
Title: Ground Cover for Austin
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

What are some ground cover or low growing shrubs that will do well in afternoon sun only in the 78750 zip code?

ANSWER:

  That’s a perfect job for the recommended species application offered on this website.  We don’t get quite as specific as 78750, but you will find recommended species for Central Texas and you can be pretty sure they will be good choices.  One thing you can recognise is that 78750 is to the north side of the county, which is an area that is part of the Edwards Plateau / Hill Country rather than the east side of Travis County which more closely resembles the Blackland prairie.  You should lean towards natives that also thrive in the counties to the northwest.  All the plants I mention below fit that consideration and in fact have pretty wide distribution throughout Texas.

   When I did this search, I further narrowed the search to General Appearance:“herb”, Light Requirement: “Partial Shade 2-6 hours”, and Height: "0-1 feet".  That returned 8 lovely flowers, including Callirhoe involucrata (Winecup)Glandularia bipinnatifida var. bipinnatifida (Prairie verbena), and Salvia engelmannii (Engelmann's sage), all of which will grow well.


Salvia engelmannii

      
Callirhoe involucrata
          Glandularia bipinnatifida var. bipinnatifida

 

  Realizing that this doesn’t give you year-around ground cover, you can do the same search, but for “Grass/Grass-like” habits, then the recommendation is for Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss) or Hilaria belangeri var. belangeri (Curly-mesquite).  These require full sun, so they might not do quite so well depending on how serious a requirement you have for “afternoon sun only”.  If this general direction appeals, I know that some of the Wildflower Center suppliers such as Native American Seed offer varieties that have been optimised for partial shade.

              
Bouteloua dactyloides
           Hilaria belangeri var. belangeri

  If you are looking for slightly taller natives, the 1-3 ft category has 5 recommended species including Chrysactinia mexicana (Damianita) and Penstemon baccharifolius (Rock penstemon).  The 3-6 foot selection has 33 recommended species.  I like Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (Flame acanthus) and Lantana urticoides (Texas lantana).

         
Chrysactinia mexicana
      Penstemon baccharifolius    Anisacanthus quadrifidus       Lantana urticoides

  You have many choices, but if you go with the recommended species, you will have a lovely native garden. 

 

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