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
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - June 01, 2011

From: Downingtown, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Turf
Title: Shade plants to replace a lawn in PA
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

Our neighborhood is built into a hill and our backyard is along the slope. We cannot keep grass in the area (except for a few clumps). The area is mostly shaded and moist-dry however when rain comes the hill turns into a river washing away soil. The roots of some of our trees are now exposed and the problem is getting worse. Are there any native ground covers that we can use for a lawn (area where the kids can play without destroying the plants)?

ANSWER:

This is a tough situation.  Conventional turf grasses will not survive in very shady conditions and the types of ground covers that can take foot traffic also require full sun.

You could consider sedges.  They are pretty tough, will grow in the shade and there are quite a few which are native to Pennsylvania such as:

Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge)

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)

Carex plantaginea (Plantainleaf sedge)

They are clump-forming, so you would have to plant many of them to create the sense of a lawn.

Because you are dealing with kids playing, you may have to resort to gravel in the high traffic areas interspersed with plantings of carex and other shade loving plants such as ferns.

To see a complete list of plants native to your area, visit our Native Plant Database and perform a Combination Search for Pennsylvania.  Choose the plant type (grass, herbaceous plant, shrub) and shade.  The lists of plants generated have links to detailed information pages.


Carex blanda


Carex pensylvanica


Carex plantaginea

 

 

More Turf Questions

Seeding an established buffalograss lawn to make it denser
May 13, 2010 - We have 5400 sq ft of existing Buffalo grass and would like to know if spreading Buffalo grass SEED would help the existing get more full? I can't seem to find the seed here or the Austin area? And, ...
view the full question and answer

Will Thunder Turf do well in shade from Iola TX
June 23, 2010 - Will the Thunder Turf do well in shady areas or is there a better blend of native grasses that would thrive better?
view the full question and answer

Grass for sunny Texas lawn
February 28, 2009 - We lost our front yard(bermuda) last summer/fall due to grubs(we think). When and what type of grass seed do we do this spring to plant a new yard? We can't afford to lay sod. It's mostly sunny. We ...
view the full question and answer

Elimination of bermuda grass from St. Augustine lawn
January 04, 2005 - Dear Mr.Smarty Plants, I am so frustrated with the bermuda grass mixed with St. Augustine grass. I have tried Ortho-B-gone but it did not work. Is there any measure to kill the Bermuda grass but not...
view the full question and answer

Eliminating stinging nettles in lawn in Austin
May 13, 2009 - How do I get rid of stinging nettle that is dispersed through my lawn. It's not like the nettle pictures I see online - they are short plants and have narrow leaves - but covered with spines. Mowin...
view the full question and answer

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