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

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

Live oak sprouts in lawn and flower beds
March 06, 2008 - I have several live oak trees that keep putting up sprouts in my lawn and flower beds. Is there any way to prevent this ?
view the full question and answer

Native lawn grass for El Paso
April 24, 2011 - I am new to the El Paso area and my front and back yards are currently mostly dirt with a tiny bit of dying (thank goodness) bermuda grass. I want to seed both yards with something that will grow well...
view the full question and answer

Native grass for shaded lawn in Austin
May 14, 2010 - Hello, I've read all your info on the native lawns and came by the center on Sunday. We live in Circle C and want to plant a lawn in our backyard. We don't want something that needs a lot of wate...
view the full question and answer

Is it OK to recycle my kids bathwater out to the lawn?
July 23, 2009 - Is it OK for me to "recycle" my kids bathwater out to the lawn or houseplants? We use normal everyday brand kids soap. Thanks Mr. Smarty Plants
view the full question and answer

Calyptocarpus vialis, Horseherb, for shady, mowable lawn
April 06, 2007 - Graham, Texas, Heavily wooded. Too shady for St. Augustine grass. Need mowable ground cover near house. Have heard of something called horsewort, but not able to find anything about it.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center