En EspaŅol

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

Tuesday - June 21, 2011

From: San Marcos, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Grass for shady area
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I need to find a grass that can grow in a shady area, with some sun. Drought resistant and preferably native to the area. Would like to find a sod if possible. I know it's not a great time to plant now, but is there anything you can suggest for my area in San Marcos. Thanks!

ANSWER:

There are no native turf grasses that grow well in mostly shade.  If you area gets 6 or more hours of sun each day, then the Native Lawns: Multi-species of Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss), Bouteloua gracilis (Blue grama) and Hilaria belangeri (Curly mesquite grass) or buffalograss alone (Native Lawns: Buffalograss) would be your choice.   With much less than 6 hours of sun per day, however, these grasses aren't going to grow very well at all.  Sedges are probably your best bet for the area if you are looking for a lawn-like look.  Here is an article, Sedge Lawns for Every Landscape, by John Greenlee.  The native sedges for your area that do well in the shade and are evergreen and drought tolerant are:

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

Carex planostachys (Cedar sedge)

Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge)

Carex retroflexa (Reflexed sedge) and here are photos and more information.

If you can tolerate taller grasses, there are several native ones that are attractive and do well in shade or partial shade:

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

Muhlenbergia schreberi (Nimblewill)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye or canada wild rye)

There are a couple of low groundcovers that are semi-evergreen and will tolerate light to moderate foot traffic that will also grow in partial shade or shade:

Calyptocarpus vialis (Straggler daisy)

Phyla nodiflora (Texas frogfruit)

You are absolutely correct that this is a very bad time (because of the drought and extreme heat) to try to get grasses, sedges or groundcovers started either by seed, by sod, or by plants.   Whatever you plant is going to require lots of water to establish it and maintain it unless we start getting some significant rainfall soon.

You can look for nurseries that specialize in native plants in your area by searching in our National Suppliers Directory.

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas sedge
Carex texensis

Cedar sedge
Carex planostachys

Eastern woodland sedge
Carex blanda

Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Nimblewill
Muhlenbergia schreberi

Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

Canada wild rye
Elymus canadensis

Straggler daisy
Calyptocarpus vialis

Straggler daisy
Calyptocarpus vialis

Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Propagation of rain, oxblood, and copper lily bulbs
November 30, 2012 - I have Rain Lily, Oxblood Lily, and Copper Lily bulbs out of the ground, that are putting out some green growth. I would like to plant them soon. Is it okay to plant now and in December, or do I hav...
view the full question and answer

Native grasses for horses in Manor, TX
January 20, 2011 - Hi, Can you tell me which native grasses to plant that would grow (and be drought tolerant) in the Manor area. The area we would like to plant seeds has some sun and part shade. There appear to be so...
view the full question and answer

Retention of soil on bank in Pittsburgh, PA
June 15, 2008 - I have a steep bank in front of our house in Pittsburgh. We no longer want to mow this bank and wish to plant something that will spread and hold the soil. What do you recommend?
view the full question and answer

Plants for delineating property line
July 18, 2010 - I have a neighbor who does not mow his grass or take care of a strip that runs between my property and his. I would like to plant some inexpensive, low maintenance, shrubs, that would do well in full...
view the full question and answer

Short or mowable plant for walkway
June 03, 2008 - I'd like a short and/or mowable plant to use as a walkway in and around a vegetable garden in upstate NY. I was planning on clover, but I want to use a native plant if possible. The native clovers ...
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
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center