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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.

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Wednesday - August 03, 2011

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Groundcovers, Turf, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Evergreen ground cover for San Antonio
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Is there a short, evergreen, drought tolerant ground cover which will tolerate light traffic that can be used instead of grass? San Antonio, Texas

ANSWER:

Here are a few groundcover plants that are evergreen in the San Antonio area.  You didn't say what the light situation is, but most of these will grow in sun or part shade.   All will tolerate at least some mowing and all are drought tolerant but will require moisture to become established.

Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge) grows in sun, part shade and shade.

Carex planostachys (Cedar sedge) grows best in part shade.

Carex perdentata (Meadow sedge) grows in sun.

Carex texensis (Texas sedge) grows in sun and part shade.

Calyptocarpus vialis (Straggler daisy) grows in sun, part shade and shade.

Phyla nodiflora (Texas frogfruit) grows in sun and part shade.

I know that you said you wanted an alternative to grass, but you may not know about the Native Lawn alternatives that are being researched by the Wildflower Center.   The major component is Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss).  You can have a lawn using exclusively buffalograss or you can add Bouteloua gracilis (Blue grama) and Hilaria belangeri (Curly mesquite grass) to make a multi-species lawn that uses very little water (once established), can be mowed as infrequently as once or twice a year, may turn brown in the dry, hot summer but greens again with rain.  These three native grasses require full sun so if you are dealing with some areas that are shade or part shade, you would need to consider one of the groundcovers shown above, at least, for the shady area.

 

From the Image Gallery


Eastern woodland sedge
Carex blanda

Cedar sedge
Carex planostachys



Texas sedge
Carex texensis

Horseherb
Calyptocarpus vialis

Horseherb
Calyptocarpus vialis

Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

Buffalograss
Bouteloua dactyloides

Blue grama
Bouteloua gracilis

Curly mesquite grass
Hilaria belangeri

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