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
Not Yet Rated

Friday - September 14, 2012

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Ground cover under Juniper for San Antonio
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

I have a shaded area under juniper in the Hill Country of Texas that has many sprouts from the tree. We have to weed whack it to keep them under control. What ground cover could I use to enhance that area that could stand periodic whacking to the ground along with the sprouts? Plants I'm thinking might do: cedar sedge, cedar sage, ruellia nudiflora, silver pony foot, artemesia ludoviciana. Would any of these work? Others?

ANSWER:

Your choices are generally good.  Mr Smarty Plants got lucky while researching your question.  It turns out that the plant record for Carex planostachys (Cedar sedge) actually contains most of the answer to your question.

It states:  "Carex planostachys (Cedar sedge) is named for the plants it most frequently grows among and under: cedars, a.k.a. junipers (Juniperus species).  It is one of many plants evolved to grow in the rich, loose, fast-draining soil created by juniper leaf fall.  For central Texas, herb-layer companion plants for the shade would be Cedar Sage (Salvia roemeriana), Missouri Violet (Viola missouriensis), Violet Ruellia (Ruellia nudiflora), Drummonds Ruellia (Ruellia drummondiana), Baby Blue Eyes (Nemophila phacelioides), and Straggler Daisy (Calyptocarpus vialis)."
 As per weed-whacking, Cedar Sedge can take occasional mowing and light foot traffic as can Violet Ruella.  Missouri Violet and Drummonds Ruellia are both slightly taller [1-3 ft.]; these might not look too well when taken to the ground.  Missouri Violet, Baby Blue Eyes and Straggler Daisy are all short ground covers which will look well soon after they are taken down.  The advice for Calyptocarpus vialis (Straggler daisy) actually recommends these all to be planted together as companion plants. 

  I'd have concern that two of your suggestions won't work as well.   Dichondra argentea (Silver ponyfoot) looks properly low and has an interesting appearance, but prefers sun or partial shade and is considered good for large open areas.  Silver Ponyfoot may not tolerate the shade of your junipers well.  Similarly,  Artemisia ludoviciana (Louisiana artemisia) is also recommended for open sunny areas.  Although it is noted as tolerating mowing, as it grows to 1.5 to 3 ft. high, it may be seriously set back and scraggly from weed-whacking to the ground.

  As you care for your ground-cover, you may want to consider one piece of advice Mr Smarty Plants often gives to people hiding Oak shoots - - If you choose a ground cover that is low to the ground and not too different from the shoots, try mowing high rather than weed-whacking to the ground.  That will trim the shoots off while not particularly affecting the ground cover.  The ground cover will be still pretty fresh and good looking while the shoots are trimmed off.  This is a strategy of hiding the mowed shoots rather than blasting everything with the weed-whacker. 

 

From the Image Gallery


Cedar sedge
Carex planostachys

Cedar sage
Salvia roemeriana

Missouri violet
Viola missouriensis

Drummond's ruellia
Ruellia drummondiana

Texas baby blue eyes
Nemophila phacelioides

Horseherb
Calyptocarpus vialis

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Shrub for Shady Austin, Texas Backyard
July 11, 2016 - I am looking for a colorful shrub or bush for my drab backyard in Austin. It won't get much sun and I want something native that detracts bugs if possible.
view the full question and answer

Non-Poisonous, Shade Tolerant Vine for Austin
February 01, 2011 - Hello, I live in northwest Austin and have a very shady wood fence I would like to cover and was thinking about a vine. I have a toddler and a dog so anything poisonous is out of the question. I woul...
view the full question and answer

Plants for northern exposure in Wichita, KS
March 17, 2009 - What are good plants for the north side of the house with acidic soil in Zone 6, Wichita, KS?
view the full question and answer

Native Shade Tree for Central Texas
February 26, 2011 - My parents are buried in Round Mountain Cemetery close to Marble Falls, TX. Can you recommend a tree or shrub we can plant to shade their graves? We need something that can survive and grow in the h...
view the full question and answer

Turks cap not blooming in Austin
June 03, 2008 - Why is my Turks Cap not blooming? It gets about an hour of sun in the morning, then shade for the rest of the day. It gets watered with the sprinkler system that waters our lawn.
view the full question and answer

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