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?


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
Not Yet Rated

Friday - December 21, 2012

From: Arnold, MO
Region: Midwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Low-maintenance grass for retention pond
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I would like to know what would be a low-growing grass to put down for a water retention pond. We have clay and rocky soil. The incline of the sides of the retention pond are about 20 feet with grass bottoms and they hardly ever have water in them. I'm looking for something that is low-maintenance that would only have to be cut once a year or less.


Below are ssuggestions for several grasses and sedges that should work in your retention pond.  They are all native to Jefferson County or an adjacent county in Missouri.

Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss) would be an ideal solution as long as the retention pond doesn't hold water often.   It grows to only 8 to 12 inches, requires no fertilizer or additional water.  It does occur in neighboring St Louis County.  Here is one of our How to Articles, Native Lawns: Buffalograss, with more information about the grass and how to plant and care for it.

Digitaria cognata (Carolina crabgrass) is a relatively short grass that is native to Jefferson County.  Here is more information from University of Michigan Herbarium and from The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation.

Hordeum jubatum (Foxtail barley) is an attractive grass that grows to about 20 inches high. Here is more information from Illinois Wildflowers and from Outsidepride.com in Oregon.

Sedges are also a possibility.  They usually don't grow as tall as grasses and will usually tolerate growing in very wet soil which could occur in the retention pond.  The ones listed below are evergreen or semi-evergreen.

Carex texensis (Texas sedge) is evergreen.  Here is more information from Niche Gardens in North Carolina and San Marcos Growers in California.

Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge) is evergreen.  Here is more information from Illinois Wildflowers and from Missouri Plants.

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge) is semi-evergreen and grows to only 6 to 8 inches high.  Here is more information from Illinois Wildflowers and from American Beauty Native Plants in Delaware.

You might try a combination of grasses and sedges at first to see what grows the best in your retention pond area.  It will depend on the amount of sun, the soil type and water availability.


From the Image Gallery

Bouteloua dactyloides

Carolina crabgrass
Digitaria cognata

Foxtail barley
Hordeum jubatum

Texas sedge
Carex texensis

Eastern woodland sedge
Carex blanda

Pennsylvania sedge
Carex pensylvanica

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Making a pollinator garden
August 11, 2014 - Hello, I have a ditch right by my house and I want to turn it into a pollinator garden using native plants. My problem is, right now it's so full of weeds that we have to mow those down so soon. For ...
view the full question and answer

Need plants to replace cedars on a 40 degree slope in Boerne, TX.
August 28, 2012 - My backyard is a roughly 40 degree slope that is covered with cedars. The slope is basically all rock, what can I grow here to replace the cedar which drink too much water. I would still like the area...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a property near a conservation area in MD
July 18, 2011 - Can you tell me what native plants and the type of landscaping that would be good to plant in front of a forest conservation area that is on a steep hill behind our future house? It is located in Manc...
view the full question and answer

When to harvest native grass seeds?
May 29, 2015 - We are trying to restore native grasses to a small pasture between Oak Hill and Dripping Springs. Last spring (2014), we seeded a mix of sideoats grama, little bluestem, dahl bluestem, and sprangleto...
view the full question and answer

Need information about grasses for cattle grazing in Weatherford, TX.
September 16, 2012 - Need info on what I can plant for cattle to graze thru winter. grasshoppers and drought have decimated our coastal hay for past 2 yrs.Is there anything we can treat all the weeds with besides chemic...
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.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center