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
1 rating

Monday - September 24, 2012

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Grasses or Grass-like, Trees
Title: Non-native, and/or invasive bermudagrass, St. Augustine and Pistache from Houston
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Our St. Augustine lawn died suddenly this summer from either chinch bugs or grub worms (or both?), and a multitude of weeds and native Bermuda have taken over the area. Now that the weather has cooled, we would like to re-sod. We need to kill the weeds and Bermuda, but we planted a young Pistache in one corner of the yard and do not want to damage or kill the tree during the process. Do you recommend an herbicide for the Bermuda and weeds? How far away should we stay from the tree? We assume we should remove the weeds and remaining sod from around the tree by hand.

ANSWER:

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is dedicated to the growth, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which those plants grownatively.

Since both St. Augustine and bermudagrass are non-native, we would recommend neither. Bermudagrass is one of the most invasive weeds of the South, and St. Augustine is a high-maintenance water guzzler. Not only that, but we wish you had not planted the Pistacia chinense (chinese pistache). Please read this Dave's Garden forum on the tree, particularly the 7 negative comments. Also, from Invasives.org, another article on the tree.

Now that we have criticized every plant you have mentioned (sorry, that's our job), we will try to answer the specific questions. If you have the St. Augustine because the lawn is in shade, there is not much native that we can suggest. Most native grasses require at least 5 to 6 hours of sun a day. Here is a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer on solarization to get rid of bermudagrass. There are a couple problems with that: one is that it needs to be done in the heat of the summer and second is that it would be necessary to stop watering the St. Augustine if that is what you want to keep.

Here is another previous Mr. Smarty Plants question on replacing lawns with better, native choices.

Now, about the herbicides. The grasses are monocots, or narrow-leaf plants, and the tree is a dicot, or broad-leaf plant. You can buy monocot-specific herbicides that will kill the grasses and, theoretically, not harm broad-leaf plants. Theoretically. You can buy a dicot-specific herbicide to kill the broadleaf plants that will theoretically, ignore the grasses.  Theoretically. Or there are broad-spectrum herbicides that will melt the concrete. We don't like to use any herbicides because it's going to kill  something, it floats in the air,  goes where you don't want it and it's polluting.

If you are determined to resod St. Augustine, pulling out the bermudagrass and other weeds (and pulling them out, and pulling them out) is probably your only safe procedure. And when all the pistache seeds start sprouting in your yard and your neigbors's yards, and the football stadium, don't say we didn't warn you.

 

 

More Non-Natives Questions

Aging non-native weeping willow in Ohio
June 11, 2008 - We had a weeping willow now for about 15 years and it was doing fine until this summer. It has new branches sort of but a lot of the older ones are dying. There are leaves of course and they are sti...
view the full question and answer

Cross pollination of orange and crapemyrtle
November 05, 2007 - I have a crapemyrtle tree growing 3 feet from a navel orange tree. This summer a shoot grew from the ground 5 inches from the orange tree. The shoot looks just like the orange tree but the leaves were...
view the full question and answer

Mosquito repellant plant?
January 18, 2009 - Is there such a thing as mosquito repellent plants? If so, what are they?
view the full question and answer

Covering dead arborvitae with non-native ivy from Niles MI
April 14, 2013 - I have a severely thinning arborvitae hedge. It is probably too shady, but I want the privacy. I'm thinking of planting something like ivy to fill the gaps. I know it will probably kill the hedge, bu...
view the full question and answer

Browning leaves on non-native Burford holly
August 22, 2008 - I have several dwarf Burford hollies whose leaves are browning. The individual leaves have colors of green, dark brown to light brown extending from the stem. Any ideas?
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