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
Not Yet Rated

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. 

 

More Groundcovers Questions

Oxalis drummondii as ground cover
May 11, 2007 - We live in Austin, Texas. A sunny, dry swath of grass (originally St. Augustine) has been invaded by pink wood-sorrel (a large-leafed, mounding kind). I love the wood-sorrel, and would like to use it ...
view the full question and answer

Strip Groundcover for Austin, TX
February 19, 2015 - I live in a condo in Austin (near N Lamar and North Loop), and am on the HOA board. There is a small strip of land along the back of the units, used mostly for access for maintenance - it ranges from ...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for Massachusetts
March 21, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, We are trying to kill poison ivy in shaded areas bordering our driveway and want to plant something quickly to replace it. There are many tall trees in this area, mainly pi...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for rocky slope
February 27, 2012 - My house has a very steep and very rocky slope. We have no problems with erosion, its just very unnattractive. There is no way to mow it whatsoever, and we live in a planned community so we can't h...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover beneath a maple
January 24, 2009 - I am looking for something to spread out in the shade of a maple tree. I have tried lily of the valley, ferns, pachysandra, ivy, hosta, euonymus.. nothing spreads out.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center