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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - May 26, 2011

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Replacement for non-native St. Augustine in San Antonio
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I have a large oak tree on one side of my front yard. St. Augustine grass does not grow there because of the shade. What do you recommend as a replacement for the St. Augustine? I would like to send you a photo of the area in question and also attach a top-down diagram of my front yard to give you a better idea of the present landscaping. Please call me to give me your email address so that I can send the photo and diagram. I found your website by a Google search of Texas ground cover shade The question that came up was from Tyler, TX on Tuesday, February 24, 2009. The answer was helpful for sandy soil; however, the soil in our yard is black dirt over rocks.


While we can give you some advice in reference to your shade problem, there are other things you have requested that we cannot do.  Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is designed to provide general gardening information specific to native plants.  We do not have the computer infrastructure to work with photos and diagrams.  For the type of service you're requesting, we recommend hiring a licensed landscape architect or landscape designer.

Sometimes you can find the answer to your question by searching on previous Mr. Smarty Plants questions and answers. We are asked the same, or  similar, questions very frequently, and if you become a regular reader you will notice that we ourselves draw on previous answers, in the interests of time. These are listed, beginning with the most recently answered, and continuing in the same chronological order.

Lookiing at the boxes at the top of that page, you will note there are several ways to search. We first did a Keyword Search, typing in "shade," and got 1312 possibile answers. Then, we searched on topic, and "Landscaping" yielded 924 previous answers. Finally, we searched on location and "San Antonio" gave us a whole bunch of "Questions from Near You." Obviously, you are not going to want to go through that many of our pearls of wisdom (and if you go back very far, you will notice that we get smarter as time goes by), but the author of each answer provides a title, which should give some clues to what you are looking for.

Rather than copy a great deal of information, we are going to link you and other readers to the question you referenced: Previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer. As you pointed out, Tyler has different soil than you do in Central Texas, so we will follow the plant link to the plants we listed and see which are native to and/orwill grow in the Bexar County area also. Please note from that previous answer that shade and soil are not the only reasons plants will not grow under that oak. We will give you a sample of the herbaceous blooming plants and the grasses.

You can make your own search by going to our Recommended Species section, clicking on Central Texas on the map, and then searching on whatever kind of plant you want (herbaceous blooming plant, grass, etc.,) even the hoped-for height. Follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant and study it to see if it will work for you. For instance, here is what we found out about 2 plants on the referenced list for Tyler.

Phlox divaricata (wild blue phlox) - can grow in both acidic (Tyler) and alkaline (San Antonio) soils. Soil description: moist, acid soils, but also found in calcareous areas. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay.

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) - native to Bexar County, Soil Description: Moist sands, loams, and clays. Poorly drained okay.



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