En Español

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
1 rating

Monday - December 10, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Xeriscapes, Shade Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs, Vines
Title: Plants under Oak Trees in Austin TX
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

Half of my small yard is in the shade of one big live oak and one kumquat. Nothing I plant grows in this shade. The other half of my yard gets sunlight. It is planted with Jasmine grass which grows well except in extreme drought. What grass or plants would grow in the shaded area of my yard? Or should I xeroscape? Thank you.

ANSWER:

   Finding something decent to grow under a Live Oak is one of those eternal challenges for the Austin area.  As such, these three question/answer pairs from the Mr Smarty Archives contain a pretty good selection of advice towards native plants that will cope with the shade, alleleopathy and dense roots under a live Oak.

Ground Cover under Oaks in Austin
Good One:    Ground Cover under Live Oaks 
2-4 Ft Shrub for Oak Shaded bed  

   For the other half of your yard, you didn’t voice an explicit question – BUT – Mr Smarty Plants noticed that mention of Jasmine grass. We suspect you mean Asiatic Jasmine [Trachelospermum asiaticum] which is an import from Asia, specifically Korea and Japan.   As Wildflower Center aficionados, we feel honor bound to advise you to get rid of that non-native and replace it with a good native.  There is a good selection of native groundcovers and vines that have similar growth habits.  Consider the perennial herbs: Phyla nodiflora (Texas frogfruit) or Calyptocarpus vialis (Straggler daisy), and the vines:  Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper) or Ipomoea cordatotriloba var. cordatotriloba (Tievine).

   Finally - "Should you Xeriscape"  [note spelling!].  Yes, most certainly, if that is a type of look for your yard that you would appreciate.  It clearly is a strong approach if you like the low-maintenance aspect and there is an excellent selection of native plants that are well adapted to the kind of rainfall and sun that we see around here.  One of the better solutions for the area under an Oak is a type of xeriscape. This is to use a cover(plastic, cardboard) to suppress the suckers, then cover that with a thick layer of mulch on top. Here are a couple good links I read when I searched "Xeriscape" - Their questions are remarkably like yours!

Mr. Smarty Plants advice on Xeriscaping
Replacing Ivy with Texas Groundcovers

 

From the Image Gallery


Coral honeysuckle
Lonicera sempervirens

Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

Horseherb
Calyptocarpus vialis

Virginia creeper
Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Tievine
Ipomoea cordatotriloba var. cordatotriloba

Yaupon
Ilex vomitoria

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Shade grasses for central Texas
November 16, 2014 - We are new to the area and bought a home this summer that has lots of shade in the very small backyard. The problem is that there was new sod laid in the backyard which now is 50% dead. We do not kno...
view the full question and answer

Michigan native plants for shady, low traffic area
May 10, 2006 - Hello, I am looking for a recommendation for a Michigan native groundcover. I live adjacent to the Rouge River watershed and want to buy the right thing. The location is shady, infrequently walked ...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for part shade in North Carolina
February 07, 2009 - I'm thinking about planting a border in front of my house. It's on the north side, so it's fairly shady. One of the main problems with this is that I don't like many common shade plants, so it's ...
view the full question and answer

Screening bush for shady area
June 05, 2008 - I need some kind of bush that will act as an air conditioning blind. So far the deer have eaten or destroyed everything planted in the very shady mulch bed. What do you recommend?
view the full question and answer

Grasses for shade in McKinney TX
August 19, 2010 - Dear Sir, We have lived in the same house for 25 years and when we originally moved in we had St. Augustine sod installed and for several years it did very well until my trees started getting bigge...
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 | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center