En EspaÑol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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

Native turf grasses for shady lawn
May 25, 2011 - I am interested in planting a native lawn using the grasses discussed on the website (2lb of buffalograss, 1½ lb of bluegrama and at least 4 oz of curly mesquite). My front yard is relatively small w...
view the full question and answer

Survival of native lawn in Hockley TX
August 02, 2011 - I'm on the edge of the Katy Prairie and a very large ranch with full blasting sun and completely open exposure. The soil is fill from the developers with more clay than sand, a minimum of nutrients,...
view the full question and answer

Maple roots in lawn in Denton TX
June 03, 2010 - I purchased a new home 4 years ago that came with a landscape package. There are 2 trees in the front yard that I think are red maple trees. I am now seeing their roots appear above the ground which...
view the full question and answer

Native grass for Round Rock, Texas lawn
November 12, 2008 - Hello, I just moved into a new place and the grass in the back yard is very spotty. I would like to know the best seed to put down to cure this problem. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Sowing grass for shaded lawn in Texas
February 04, 2008 - I'm renting a home for short period of time, hence I would like to make this as simple, but as beneficial as possible. The backyard soil is degraded and compacted so I would like to try and use a "...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center