En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Non-native, invasive bermudagrass from Memphis TN

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

Friday - August 17, 2012

From: Memphis, TN
Region: Southeast
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Compost and Mulch, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Non-native, invasive bermudagrass from Memphis TN
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in central Memphis and have well-drained clay soil. I have converted much of the front yard from turf grass to beds of native plants, which survive our hot humid without supplemental watering except when it gets really droughty. The leftover turfgrass forms broad paths between the beds. This is a "full sun" area. The problem is that the turf grass is that dratted bermuda. It is very hard to keep out of the beds. I have thought about replacing it with native grasses like Thunderturf, but these seem to spread by stolons as well. So won't I have the same problem no matter what? It looks like drought-tolerant turf grasses all use the same mechanic to be drought tolerant: stolons that sneak into flower beds.

ANSWER:

Bermudagrass is well known as one of the worst weeds in the South. You have already gone a long way to xeriscaping, are you interested in going the extra mile?

Since we have already agreed that bermudagrass is an ugly weed, may we suggest you continue to get rid of it? Easier said than done. From About.com: Landscaping here is an article on Solarization. As you read the article, just remember to substitute "bermudagrass" for "weeds." This is a fairly complex solution, needs to be done in the summer when it's hot enough to fry the bermuda grass and the roots, and isn't attractive while it's underway.

If you would prefer to take smaller steps, consider removing the bermudagrass an area at a time. This article from the University of California Integrated Pest Management gives the best ideas for bermudagrass extermination we have seen. As you clear a space, quickly step in and put down mulch. This might still be susceptible to surviving stolons of the grass, but they will be few and determined digging and removal (don't just throw it on the ground, it can even be revitalized that way) should keep it under control. If you wish to add more ornamental beds, let the mulch decompose a bit and keep the stubborn grass down until you are ready to plant. The mulch not only helps to control weeds, but it protects roots of desirable trees and shrubs from heat and cold. The decomposition of the mulch assists in amending the soil, and can be walked on like a path.

As long as we are talking paths, you mentioned the turf grass as making broad paths through your garden. Consider, once you have eliminated the bermudagrass in an area, putting down a path of decomposed granite or more mulch. From The Human Footprint, here is an article on using decomposed granite. Most of the pathways in the Lady Bird Wildflower Center are treated this way, and it is far more natural-looking and low maintenance than grasses, etc.

Since you have full sun and a temperate climate, think about planting some succulents or a mix of succulents in your new spaces, and surrounding them with decomposed granite, or even gravel, which will permit weeds to sprout, so watch it! This would give you even more of a xeriscape look, require very low watering, an important consideration as the whole country seems to be dealing with drought. Actually, according to our  Native Plant Database there are only 3 succulents native to Tennessee: Yucca filamentosa (Adam's needle), Opuntia humifusa (Devil's-tongue), and Manfreda virginica (False aloe).

So, for your xeriscaped beds, how about some taller ornamental grasses native to Tennessee? Consider Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana (Silver beard grass). Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats grama) or Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem).

That's probably enough to keep you busy for  a while. And, to anybody else reading this, think real hard before planting Cynodon dactylon (bermudagrass).

 

From the Image Gallery


Adam's needle
Yucca filamentosa

Devil's-tongue
Opuntia humifusa

False aloe
Manfreda virginica

Silver beard grass
Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana

Sideoats grama
Bouteloua curtipendula

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

More Non-Natives Questions

Request for native grasses from Hillsboro TX
August 04, 2012 - P.S. I forgot to mention one very important fact: my neighbor specifically asked for "native grass" recommendations. He thought he was getting a native grass recommendation.
view the full question and answer

Growing fruits and vegetables from Holbrook NY
April 06, 2012 - I have been looking for information on what plants, vegetables and fruits can be grown on Long Island NY to provide a sustainable food source for a community in the event of food becoming scarce. Wha...
view the full question and answer

Problems with beheaded non-native Gerbera daisies in Cooperstown, NY
May 31, 2009 - I planted my gerberas in my perennial bed - as usual. Something is beheading them and leaving the blooms along side the plant. Some of the bloom is eaten but most of it is right there. I have t...
view the full question and answer

Problems with non-native parsley from Brooklyn NY
June 17, 2012 - Had beautiful flat leaf parsley plants recently turn yellow & die. Found black armadillo like bugs bored throughout the roots. Now they're spreading. How do I kill them without contaminating the pla...
view the full question and answer

Does non-native Crown of Thorns cause cancer?
August 24, 2013 - Does the plant, Corona De Cristo (Crown of thorns) cause cancer?
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