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

Thursday - October 12, 2006

From: Mansfield, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Native alternatives to St. Augustine for under an Arizona Ash
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I live in Mansfield, TX. We have a large Arizona Ash tree in our back yard. No grass will grow under it. We are thinking of laying sod (St. Augustine) there. Is this a good solution and if so, when is the best time of year to do this? Thanks!


St. Augustine (Stenotaphrum secundatum) might grow under your Arizona ash tree, but it will require frequent watering and mowing. Also, it is affected by several insect pests and diseases. Spring, after the danger of frost, is the best time to lay the sod so that it has warmer and lengthening growing days to establish itself before the heat of summer.

You might like to consider some less water-thirsty plants that will do well in the shade. An alternative ornamental grass that does well in the shade is Inland sea oats. The seed heads are attractive in flower arrangements. Another grass with ornamental seed heads that will grow in the shade is Canada wild rye (Elymus canadensis). Sedges, such as Meadow Sedge (Carex perdentata) and Texas Sedge (Carex texensis), do well in dry shade and require little or no mowing. You can read about using sedges for lawns in the article, "Sedge Lawns for Every Landscape".

Other possibilites are non-grass ground covers such as Pigeon Berry (Rivina humilis), Texas Frogfruit, (Phyla nodiflora) Golden groundsel (Packera obovata), or White Avens (Geum canadense).


More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Herbicide on Habiturf from Austin
May 31, 2014 - Can you recommend an herbicide that is safe to use on a Habiturf lawn? I followed the directions to put in a new Habiturf lawn about a month ago. The grass seedlings are doing well in places, but ...
view the full question and answer

Deterring geese from a wildflower garden
February 28, 2015 - I've moved into a home with a large pond beyond the grass yard. I intend to plant a sunflower house with lots of other plants as part of the structure, such as flowering vines, clover, mint and thyme...
view the full question and answer

Need to stabilize a south facing slope in Henderson, NC
April 30, 2010 - Hi, I have a south facing slope that is heavy clay with rock under it. It gets a lot of sun. I have planted a few bushes and some ground cover, but with all the snow and rain we had this past winter, ...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for steep slope in Washington DC
May 07, 2010 - We have a steep slope in our garden in Washington DC which has sun from noon to sun set. Could you please recommend some low maintenance plants which would be a good ground cover and limit erosion?
view the full question and answer

Erosion control for a North Carolina creek side
February 29, 2012 - Hello Mr. Smarty Plants! I noticed a question on your website recommending NC native grasses and plants to help prevent erosion on a sloping backyard, including the use of an erosion blanket. The pl...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center