Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
3 ratings

Friday - May 27, 2011

From: Burnet, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Native grass for sandy soil and shade
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

We have a sandy soil and lots of shade. Is there a native grass that would do well under these conditions?

ANSWER:

If you are looking for a native turf grass that does well in shade, I am sorry to tell you that there really aren't any.  As far as sand goes, of the three native turf grasses—Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss), Bouteloua gracilis (Blue grama) and Hilaria belangeri (Curly mesquite grass)—buffalograss does not tolerate sand.  The other two turf grasses tolerate sand but none of the three tolerate shade.  You can read more about these three in our How to Article, Native Lawns:  Multi-species.

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), sand and part shade

 Carex perdentata (Meadow sedge), also known as sand sedge, prefers sun but will grow in part shade

 Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge), part shade and shade

Carex cherokeensis (Cherokee sedge), part shade

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.

Now, If you don't necessarily want turf grass, but do want attractive native grasses that will do well in shade and sand, here is a list for you.  Most of them are at least 1.5 feet tall and some are taller than that.  You can see their size by visiting the species page for each.

Andropogon gerardii (Big bluestem), sand and part shade

Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats grama), limestone-based sand and part shade

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats), sand, part shade and shade

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye or canada wild rye), sand and part shade

Muhlenbergia schreberi (Nimblewill), part shade and shade

Nassella tenuissima (Mexican feathergrass), sand and part shade

Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass), sand and part shade

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem), sand and part shade

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass), sand, part shade and shade

Tridens flavus (Purpletop tridens), sand, part shade and shade

Here are photos of some of the above grasses from our Image Gallery:


Carex texensis

Carex perdentata

Carex blanda

Carex cherokeensis

Calyptocarpus vialis

Phyla nodiflora

Chasmanthium latifolium

Muhlenbergia schreberi

Nassella tenuissima

Schizachyrium scoparium

Sorghastrum nutans

Tridens flavus

 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Plant that can move from outside to inside for Denton, TX
December 14, 2008 - I am looking for a plant that is either native to Texas or is well acclimated to the Denton TX area that can move from a covered outside area to an adjacent indoor area behind large glass walls, to a ...
view the full question and answer

Necessary sun exposure for Eves Necklace
November 12, 2008 - How little sun can the tree Eve's Necklace receive and still be happy and healthy? I have an intended spot that gets about 3, maybe 4 hours, some of that will be hot afternoon sun in the summer. Th...
view the full question and answer

Shade Tolerant Groundcover for Texas
July 13, 2016 - I live in Atascosa county in Pleasanton Texas, I have an abundance of Live Oak and Ash trees shading my property and need a groundcover for my backyard which is nothing but sand and where I have dogs ...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for Dallas in shade and partial shade
June 02, 2010 - What ground cover plants will grow in full shade- partial shade in the clay soil of Dallas?
view the full question and answer

Year-round ground cover for sun/shade
April 24, 2011 - Looking for a native ground cover for shade and middle afternoon/evening sun. Would like it to cover all year. I planted aguga and it froze. I have two large beds (I used about 70 4in plants for ea...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.