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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: Turf
Title: Native turf grasses for shady lawn
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I am interested in planting a native lawn using the grasses discussed on the website (2lb of buffalograss, 1 lb of bluegrama and at least 4 oz of curly mesquite). My front yard is relatively small with two 10 year old live oak trees that cast shade over the yard. Will this native mix work in my front yard? Also, I have two small children who play constantly in the yard. Will the grass do well with this foot traffic?

ANSWER:

The native turf grasses, buffalograss, curly mesquite and blue grama, discussed in Native Lawns: Multi-species will withstand moderate foot traffic after they have become established, but they don't do well in as much shade as you probably have in your yard.   Unless the grasses receive at least 6 hours sun per day they will not thrive to become a thick turf lawn.  The bad news is that there aren't really any native turf grasses that do well in shade.  The closest you can come is sedges, perhaps combined with other groundcovers.   Although sedges don't generally withstand foot traffic quite as well as turf grass, they do have the advantage of being evergreen, grow in the shade and require little mowing.  You might be interested in reading the following article, Sedge Lawns for Every Landscape.  Here are a few that do well in the Austin area:

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

 Carex perdentata (Meadow sedge)

Carex planostachys (Cedar sedge)

Some possibilities for other groundcovers to go with the sedges are 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.

Here are photos of the above plants from our Image Gallery:


Carex texensis


Carex texensis


Carex perdentata


Carex planostachys


Calyptocarpus vialis


Calyptocarpus vialis


Phyla nodiflora


Phyla nodiflora

 

 


 

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