En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Native grasses and turf grass for VA

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
1 rating

Wednesday - February 08, 2012

From: Blacksburg, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Turf, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Native grasses and turf grass for VA
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I recently moved to Blacksburg, Virginia. I am becoming involved with a church here that recently started a grounds committee. There is some discussion within the group of which varieties of native grasses to plant. Some sections of the grounds are shaded, and some have full exposure. Fully exposed areas are currently covered by turf grasses. Big blue stem, little blue stem, switch grass, Indian grass are under consideration for exposed sites. Should any of these be removed from consideration for this region? Should any species be added? As a recent transplant from north Texas, my mind gravitates towards buffalo grass, but I don't know if I am out of its native range here. Is it important to consider ratios for each species for getting these plants established? Another consideration is that some of the exposed areas are intended for foot traffic.

ANSWER:

All the grasses you mention for the exposed area are good choices for your area and are ornamental as well.

Andropogon gerardii (Big bluestem)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem) 

Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

For the shadier areas you might want to also consider

Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats grama)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Deschampsia cespitosa (Tufted hairgrass)

or one of the many carex's native to your area like

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

These grasses are all best used planted in drifts and not mowed to appreciate their ornamental qualities.

In the areas where you anticipate foot traffic you are looking for a suitable turfgrass.  It is not so easy to find a native one as most of the grasses used for lawns in North America are non-native adapted species.  That is because before European contact, turf grasses were only present in areas where there were openings in the forest that covered your part of the country.  You will find more information on that subject at americanlawns.com, this USDA publication and this article on lesslawn.com.

As you suspected, Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss) is a possibility for your situation.  It is native to sunny, dry sites from Minnesota to Mexico but is present in Virginia.  You can also consider Festuca rubra (Red fescue) and other fescue mixes such as Eco-Lawn (which is not entirely native) and available from one of our associates Wildflower Farm.  You can learn more about Buffalo grass lawns and (just for interest's sake as you will always be a Texan) Habiturf from our How to Articles on the topic.

 

From the Image Gallery


Big bluestem
Andropogon gerardii

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Switchgrass
Panicum virgatum

Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

Sideoats grama
Bouteloua curtipendula

Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium

Tufted hairgrass
Deschampsia cespitosa

Pennsylvania sedge
Carex pensylvanica

Texas sedge
Carex texensis

Buffalograss
Bouteloua dactyloides

More Turf Questions

Did pre-emergent herbicide for lawn kill oak tree in Austin?
May 10, 2010 - Your article in today's (May 1st)Austin American-Statesman advised against using herbicides around oaks. Does that include the "pre-emergents" that the lawn care companies use in the Spring? I ha...
view the full question and answer

Buffalo grass and other native grass for lawn in Central Texas
March 17, 2008 - Hi, I live in Cedar Park, TX - recently moved to into a newly built house. I wanted to put some native grass (like buffalo) in the back yard. - My back yard has slope (away from house) and front...
view the full question and answer

Source for nitrates and phosphorus (P205) for lawn care
July 04, 2008 - I recently supplied soil samples from my back yard to my local extension here in Austin. I have a hybrid Bermuda turf grass (TIF 419) that has had its share of ups and downs, and wanted to assess the ...
view the full question and answer

Las Vegas lawn grass for Dallas
February 13, 2009 - Dear Smarty Plants, Every time we go to Las Vegas I admire the beautiful grass in the lawns of most of the strip casinos. It looks like a fescue but it is just as beautiful on the hottest summer day...
view the full question and answer

Native grasses for shady yard in Austin
September 04, 2011 - I was looking at your research on native grasses to be used in a yard. I want to plant your native mix of seeds, but worry that there is too much shade in my yard. I live in central Austin and wante...
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center