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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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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

QUESTION:

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?

ANSWER:

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

Nimblewill
Muhlenbergia schreberi

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

Texas sedge
Carex texensis



Cedar sedge
Carex planostachys

Horseherb
Calyptocarpus vialis

Horseherb
Calyptocarpus vialis

Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

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