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?


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

Thursday - June 16, 2011

From: New York, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: drought-resistant turf grasses for New York City
Answered by: Guy Thompson


Hi - I work at the Smithsonian in New York City and we have a very large lawn that is frequently used in the summer for programming. It gets very beat up. I read an article in teh New York Times about your research on drought-resistant native grass research - can you recommend a blend for the Northeast that I could suggest our gardener try? I'm also our sustainability manager, so I'd love to suggest something that would not only solve a big problem for us but also be kind to the environment. Many thanks!


Drought-testing mixtures of native grasses is a time-consuming process, and even the one project dealing with grasses of the Southwest is not yet completed at the Lady Bird Wildflower Center.  Mr. Smarty Plants is unaware of a similar project for the New York City area.  Some of the fescues have been popular there since they require relatively little watering.  I find that some recent lawns used a mix of tall fescue and Poa pratensis (Kentucky bluegrass). Advice on choosing a turf grass for New York can be found at this web site.  In theory some of the newer cold-tolerant strains of bermuda grass or Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss) might survive, but I have not seen evidence of that.

If your lawns are shady in places you might consider a sedge.  The species most suited for your area is Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)Carex texensis (Texas sedge) is also native to New York, but I have not seen examples of its use in your area.


From the Image Gallery

Pennsylvania sedge
Carex pensylvanica

Texas sedge
Carex texensis

Bouteloua dactyloides

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Groundcover Under Maple Tree in Ottawa That Takes Foot Traffic
April 19, 2013 - Hi, I am looking for a groundcover to put under a large maple tree that will be alright for kids to run about on and will be happy in the Ottawa climate. Your other answers to similar questions have b...
view the full question and answer

Drought tolerant plants for MA
August 28, 2011 - We have some very very poor soil at our house on Cape Cod and are looking for plants that will take low water and sandy soil. Also we are high on a hill and quite exposed to the elements. The plot get...
view the full question and answer

Non-native, and/or invasive bermudagrass, St. Augustine and Pistache from Houston
September 24, 2012 - Our St. Augustine lawn died suddenly this summer from either chinch bugs or grub worms (or both?), and a multitude of weeds and native Bermuda have taken over the area. Now that the weather has cooled...
view the full question and answer

Seep Muhly in limited sunlight.
July 01, 2015 - Can Seep Muhly withstand just 3 or 4 hours of direct sunlight in an urban setting?
view the full question and answer

Blue plants or flowers in Baltimore, MD
July 27, 2007 - I have a taxi company in the city called Bluecab. The headquarters is in an industrial area and the soil is tough and well, industrial. There will be no watering or maintenance done. Looks like a car ...
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.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center