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?


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

Wednesday - May 25, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Sun requirement for native turf grasses
Answered by: Nan Hampton


What are the sun requirements needed for the native grass seed mix you recently released? I have a pretty well shaded back yard. Will this stuff grow well in this condition?


All three grasses in the mix—Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss), Bouteloua gracilis (Blue grama) and Hilaria belangeri (Curly mesquite grass)—require full sun.  They might grow a bit in partial shade but they won't be the dense turf to make a good lawn.  Unfortunately, there aren't any native turf grasses that will do well in the shade.  We can suggest taller, yet still attractive, grasses that tolerate and even do well in partial shade such as Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats), Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye or canada wild rye), Muhlenbergia schreberi (Nimblewill), Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem) and Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

As a substitute for native turf grass in shady areas you might consider sedges (Carex spp.).  Many of them are evergreen, grow well in the shade, require little water, don't grow too high and require little mowing.  Here is an article, Sedge Lawns for Every Landscape, that you might find useful and here is a list of sedges that do well in the Austin area:

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

 Carex perdentata (Meadow sedge)

Carex planostachys (Cedar sedge)

You might consider planting other groundcovers to go with the sedges such as Calyptocarpus vialis (Straggler daisy) and Phyla nodiflora (Texas frogfruit).  They are both semi-evergreen (depending on the severity of the winter) and will stand up to moderate foot traffic after they are established.

You can find nurseries that specialize in native plants in the Austin area where you might find the sedges and groundcovers by searching in our National Suppliers Directory.


From the Image Gallery

Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium

Canada wild rye
Elymus canadensis

Muhlenbergia schreberi

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Sorghastrum nutans

Texas sedge
Carex texensis

Cedar sedge
Carex planostachys

Calyptocarpus vialis

Calyptocarpus vialis

Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Plants to prevent erosion in clay soil in Heron, NY
September 07, 2009 - What plants could be used to plant on clay soil, Eastern exposure in full sun to stop erosion on a bay side hill with a steep grade?
view the full question and answer

Overwintering Juncus spiralis in a Container in PA
November 06, 2014 - I have been growing a Juncus 'Spiralis' in a self-watering container on my zone 7 patio in Pennsylvania happily all summer. I have read that this plant is native and should survive outdoors over the...
view the full question and answer

Water eroding corner in Austin
October 25, 2011 - I live close to the Wildflower Center. My yard slopes - as do my neighbors' yards to one corner in my yard. The result is constant moisture in one corner. The rest of the yard is caliche, rocks (m...
view the full question and answer

Native grasses or sedges for a border in Texas
August 12, 2011 - I am in the process of gradually replacing some of my landscaping in Dallas Texas with native Texas plants. Your website has been very helpful. I now wish to replace a liriope border, which has cro...
view the full question and answer

Native, low maintenance lawn for Rowley MA
September 11, 2013 - I am in Northeastern (coastal) Massachusetts and I am looking to replace my (currently high maintenance, water intensive, invasive species) lawn with a native, low maintenance species (or mix). Many o...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center