Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
2 ratings

Monday - June 18, 2012

From: Leander, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Xeriscapes, Drought Tolerant, Groundcovers, Shade Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Ground cover under live oaks
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

I have some areas under Live Oak trees (maybe 200 sq. ft.)that remain bare, in spite of trying Habiturf. Soil is dry, poor and shallow. Can you suggest a living ground cover that would not require major rework of the soil?

ANSWER:

I have had the same experience as you, except my bare ground is under deciduous oaks, Quercus texana (Nuttall oak).  I am experimenting with several native plants that will survive drought.  I'm having pretty good luck with Calyptocarpus vialis (Straggler daisy)Carex planostachys (Cedar sedge)Salvia lyrata (Lyreleaf sage), and Paspalum setaceum (Thin paspalum).  Some of the other sedges, such as Carex texensis (Texas sedge) and Carex amphibola (Creek sedge) might do well, although they might need slightly more water than Habiturf.  These are all mowable at a height of about four inches. The first four species are common around suburban Central Texas, and I simply transplanted some from other spots in my yard.  I also tried Tridens muticus (Slim tridens), but it seems too coarse for a lawn.  If a taller grass will fit in, try Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats), which grows to about two feet in height and does very well in shade.

Images of some of my suggested species are shown below.

 

From the Image Gallery


Horseherb
Calyptocarpus vialis

Cedar sedge
Carex planostachys

Lyreleaf sage
Salvia lyrata

Thin paspalum
Paspalum setaceum

Slim tridens
Tridens muticus

Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium

More Xeriscapes Questions

Converting a Texas backyard to grow Xerophytic native plants
January 09, 2015 - I am planning the conversion of our backyard, about 4000 sq ft of largely St Augustine, into a grassless landscape of hardscaping and native plants. Iíve been an avid gardener of rock garden plants i...
view the full question and answer

Need suggestions for plants for a bird/small wildlife refuge in Wichita Co, TX.
August 26, 2011 - With our continuing drought in North Texas, I'm planning to transform my small backyard into a bird/small wildlife "refuge". What types of native plants and grasses can I plant in dry, hot Wichita ...
view the full question and answer

Appropriate use of redbud from Austin
May 04, 2014 - I am considering purchasing a hearts of gold redbud; I am also xeriscaping my front yard. I live in Austin,TX. Will this tree do ok in full Tx sun (8+ hours) with once a week watering? If this...
view the full question and answer

Low-maintenance native plants for Arizona
March 12, 2009 - Will you please suggest some Native plants that can be left without care for the summer and survive - other than cactus?
view the full question and answer

Plants for small shady area with clay soil
August 09, 2011 - Many people have space between the sidewalk and the street in front of their homes. In that space in front of our house is a growing maple that provides a lot of shade. The space is very dry, with...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.