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

Alternative for HABITURF® in Contra Costa County, CA
September 17, 2014 - We live in Kensington, just north of Berkeley, in the San Francisco area. We intend to get rid of our water consuming lawn and we are wondering what kind of alternative you would suggest. You don't s...
view the full question and answer

Controlling weeds in Habiturf lawn
May 16, 2015 - What's the best way to get rid of weeds in a Habiturf lawn? Habiturf seems like a great idea, but even with no extra water and no fertilizer, it seems the weeds take over - K.R. Bluestem and various...
view the full question and answer

Difficult lawn redo in Austin, TX area.
April 01, 2010 - In Oak Hill section of Austin and our 2 year old house had St Augustine dumped atop the raped soil. After the drought of 09 it is all dead. We have most of our large yard native but need grass aroun...
view the full question and answer

Chigger Control in Habiturf from Plano, TX
April 08, 2015 - We converted our back yard in Plano, Texas to Habiturf last spring/summer and have a nice lawn; however, for the first time since we have lived in this house for 32 years, the lawn was full of chigger...
view the full question and answer

Replacement of lawn with native grasses in Maryland
August 31, 2007 - I live in west central Maryland within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. My soil is heavy clay and nutrient deficient. I have/am planting native flower beds and a vegetable garden in an effort to reduce...
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