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Mr. Smarty Plants - Native grass for sandy soil and shade

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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

 

 

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