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

Wednesday - November 09, 2011

From: Fredericksburg, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Diseases and Disorders, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Native Grass is Falling Over
Answered by: Mike Tomme


Hi Mr. Smarty Plants, I've tried to find this answer but am stumped as to the cause. We live in Fredericksburg, TX and have several different tall grasses, Yellow Indian grass, Little Bluestem, wire grass. Some have done very well this year. Others, especially the wire grass, have fallen over or lodged. They are growing, but aren't reaching for the sky like the others. All get the same amount of water, sun and no amendments. Several that are falling over are in the same bed as the ones that aren't. Can you tell me why? We water about 1" a week. Thank you very much!!


The Native Plant Database identifies three grasses that go by the name wiregrass; Aristida beyrichiana (Beyrich threeawn)Aristida stricta (Pineland threeawn) and Nassella tenuissima (Mexican feathergrass). The first two occur in the pine woodlands of the southeast United States and are not native to Texas, so Mr. Smarty Plants suspects you are talking about the third. This is a very widely used plant in central Texas landscapes.

It's always hard to guess what the problem is with a plant when you can't see it (and often when you can see it), but let's start with the basics. Here is what the Native Plant Database has to say:

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low 
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade 
Soil Moisture: Moist , Dry 
Soil Description: Well-drained, acid or calcareous sands, loams, or clays. 
Conditions Comments: Requires good drainage and cant take excessive moisture. Should not be watered heavily more than once a week. Goes dormant during drought and in winter. May rot under heavy mulch. Grows well in containers."

Usually, the problems with this plant result from too much water or poor drainage that can be exacerbated by heavy mulch. It doesn't sound like you are overwatering at one inch per week, but you might check to make sure your soil is drying out between waterings.

You will also note that the plant goes dormant during drought. During this past summer in central Texas lots of these plants around town fell over or otherwise went dormant.

Another possible explanation is that some plants are just less vigorous than others and you may have some that are simply predisposed to being small.

My advice right now is to keep up your watering schedule, make sure they are not too heavily mulched and see if the cooler weather brings some improvement.



From the Image Gallery

Mexican feathergrass
Nassella tenuissima

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Plant to stabilize river bank in Wisconsin
July 10, 2011 - We live along the Chippewa River in Pepin County WI and are looking for a blooming plant to help "hold" our river bank and also look attractive..it must be strong enough to take the spring flood.
view the full question and answer

What is blooming in NJ in Late November?
November 27, 2015 - I am a beekeeper in Edison, NJ. My bees are still bringing pollen even this late in the season (Thanksgiving). What plants or trees are still blooming? The color of the pollen is a pale yellow.
view the full question and answer

Stream Bank Erosion Control for Bryan/College Station
August 16, 2012 - I live in the Bryan/College Station area and need a ground cover to abate erosion on the bank of an intermittent stream. The bank is shaded. Do you have any suggestions?
view the full question and answer

Buffalograss from Kensington MD
August 03, 2012 - Hi, I'm going to follow-up on the buffalograss question from Charlottesville, since it wasn't answered fully. I'm wondering the same thing: can buffallograss survive the wet conditions of the more ...
view the full question and answer

Questions on non-native St. Augustine from Austin
October 15, 2013 - I have St. Augustine grass in my yard. I am having work done in my yard soon, which will require new sod. I know the St. Augustine has to take root in the ground before the first freeze, to assure t...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center