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?


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 - 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

Plants to grow in shady area near a pecan tree in Maryland
March 26, 2013 - I live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I have planted only natives in my front lawn. My backyard, which sports a pecan tree, fir, fig tree, and others I can't identify is dirt, just dirt. I have...
view the full question and answer

When should I plant bermuda grass seeds?
February 10, 2010 - When should I plant bermuda grass seeds?
view the full question and answer

Plants for steep slope in shade in Iowa
July 02, 2010 - I work for a small non-profit shelter here in Dubuque, Ia. that has a very steep slope behind the building that needs some sort of plant or grass planted to stop erosion. The slope gets little to no s...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen grasslike plants for Austin TX
April 15, 2008 - Hi, I'm in Austin, TX and looking for some evergreen grass-looking plants. Would you explain the similarities/differences between Butterfly Iris and Lily Grass in this regard? Thank you
view the full question and answer

Planting buffalograss from Surfside Beach SC
September 14, 2012 - How do I plant buffalograss along a lake? Do I just spread the seeds?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center