En Espa—ol

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?

Share

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
2 ratings

Thursday - March 08, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Drought Tolerant, Groundcovers, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Groundcover for Austin yard
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

My main goal is to cover my yard with a "grass" or groundcover that can handle the Texas heat, predicted long drought and some dog paw traffic (without going dormant/brown in the winter). I don't need a "clean" lawn look; shaggy is fine. My yard is full sun. I planted a mix of rye seeds to cover the dirt for the winter. I'm looking at "Carex perdentata - Texas Hill Country sedge" or "Carex pansa - California meadow sedge". I really like "Calyptocarpus vialis - horseherb" but I don't think it can handle my full sun yard in the summer and I can't find seeds to purchase. My questions: Can I plant Carex over the existing rye? Any other suggestions of other plants to consider?

ANSWER:

First of all, you need turn under or cut the rye grass before it goes to seed or you are going to have lots more rye grass next year.  Next, sedges are definitely good choices, but I think your best bet is to stick to the species that are native to the area:  

Carex perdentata (Meadow sedge)

Carex planostachys (Cedar sedge)

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

Carex cherokeensis (Cherokee sedge)

Several of these sedges should be available for sale at the Wildflower Center Spring Plant Sale (Friday, April 13 for "Members only"; Saturday and Sunday, April 14-15 for general public).  The way to establish the sedges is by small plants that can be inserted in the soil within the rye grass. They will grow and spread from the small plants.

Both of the following groundcovers should also be available as small plants at the Plant Sale.  You might consider using a combination of sedges and these two to form your groundcover:

Calyptocarpus vialis (Straggler daisy) will grow in the sun but loves to grow in the shade and part shade.  

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

Both plants are semi-evergreen depending on the severity of the winter weather.

Since your yard has full sun, it is a great candidate for the Habiturf lawn developed by the Wildflower Center.  It will go dormant in a cold winter, but become green again with spring warmth when the rains fall again.  Once established it requires little, or no, watering or mowing.

 

From the Image Gallery




Cedar sedge
Carex planostachys

Texas sedge
Carex texensis

Cherokee sedge
Carex cherokeensis

Straggler daisy
Calyptocarpus vialis

Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

Buffalograss
Bouteloua dactyloides

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Deer resistant plants for Pittsburgh PA
January 30, 2012 - What shrubs can I plant on a wet slope that gets partial sun that will help control erosion? They need to be something the deer won't eat! We have lots of deer.
view the full question and answer

Mowable grass to grow under pecan trees in Houston, Texas.
September 07, 2010 - I read your answer on grasses that will grow under pecans, but Iím looking for a grass that will blend in a bit with the rest of our St. Augustine grass yard. Something I can mow. Our pecan trees are ...
view the full question and answer

Help with Habiturf from Bertram TX
March 24, 2014 - I am a resident of Bertram..about 45 min northwest of Austin. I have 1.33 acres of land with my home on it. My front pasture is pretty nice native grass but my backyard is full of weeds. I'm guessing...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for burned acreage in Bastrop, Texas
October 31, 2011 - The fire took 2/3 of the trees on my half acre in Bastrop County. It was mostly wild. What do I plant for ground cover? Do I plant native grass seed in fall? I want to keep it native as possible. ...
view the full question and answer

Holding soil on a bank in Goldsboro, NC
July 25, 2010 - I live in Goldsboro, NC on a small ridge with a very steep bank on one side of our property. What native plants can we plant on the bank to help hold the soil. Also, what would be best to plant on t...
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center