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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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Monday - January 30, 2012

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Turf, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Habiturf in Houston
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I want to install a Multi-Species Native Lawn, like HABITURF. However, I live in Houston, Texas and most of your information on this topic doesn't address my region. As I don't have a heavily shaded yard, I'm contemplating giving it a try, and would love any tips and advice you could give me! Much appreciated.

ANSWER:

The reason that our article, Native Lawns: Multi-Species, doesn't address your region is that there hasn't been research on growing these grasses in the Houston area.  The three grasses, Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss), Bouteloua gracilis (Blue grama), and Hilaria belangeri (Curly mesquite grass), occur naturally in the drier western and northern parts of Texas. Someone from Houston asked a similar question very recently and I am copying liberally from its answer to answer your question.

Mark Simmons, the Director of the Ecosystem Design Group here at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, who is in charge of the Habiturf development and research says his main concern about it being successful in the Houston area is the fact that Houston receives more rainfall than the areas where the grasses grow naturally.  Since Houston's average annual rainfall is a little over 51 inches and Austin's (where the grass has been tested) is around 33 inches, your soil is more likely to become saturated.  Saturated soil doesn't work well for this mix of grasses that normally grows in the drier soils of the more western part of Texas.   Additionally, the extra moisture would encourage the growth of weeds.  The native mix is successful in out-competing weeds in drier soils, but with more water it is not likely to be as successful.  So, if your soil has good drainage, or you can make it so, and you are willing to pull a few weeds until the grass is well-established, I'd say "go for it" as long as the area gets 2 to 6 hours of sun per day (defined as part shade).  The mixture is not successful in full shade. 

The good news is that research into turf-type grasses native to the coastal region is in the planning stage.  Hopefully, we will soon have native turf grasses specific to your area to recommend.

 

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