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?

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

Horseherb
Calyptocarpus vialis

Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

Buffalograss
Bouteloua dactyloides

More Drought Tolerant Questions

Plants for a Austin thicket underlayer
July 25, 2014 - We live in Austin, west of 183. We are planning to put a thicket in our backyard, where there is no threat of deer. Anchoring the thicket are a clump of live oaks, a Texas persimmon, an Eve's Necklac...
view the full question and answer

Drought affecting non-native Zoysia grass in Austin
November 06, 2011 - Due to the extreme drought here in Austin this year and the watering restrictions our Zoysia lawn has suffered and appears to be dead in many areas of our lawn. Will it come back? Is there anything w...
view the full question and answer

Plants for sunny dry soil location
August 22, 2010 - Do any native plants exist in a highly sunny very dry soil location? (high overhang prevents rain but allows sun)
view the full question and answer

Pollinators for Palm Springs, CA
June 18, 2015 - Just moved to Palm Springs, California. Hot and dry, desert region. What bee and pollinator-friendly plants would do well with full afternoon sun?
view the full question and answer

Perennials for Sandy Shade in California
December 17, 2015 - Are there any native perennials that would do well in sandy shade? I have a difficult corner in my garden that does not get much sun. The soil is sandy though I have added some amount of compost to en...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center