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
Not Yet Rated

Friday - April 05, 2013

From: El Paso, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Xeriscapes, Groundcovers, Shade Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like, Trees
Title: Replacement for shade grass in El Paso TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We currently have a Honey Mesquite tree with thinning bermuda grass underneath in our front yard. I suspect that the filtered shade is killing the bermuda. I was thinking of planting Buffalo Grass, or better yet the Thunder Turf, to reduce our water consumption. I cannot find a good answer but are my suspicions correct in that the Buffalo Grass will not grow good under the mesquite either? Do you have any good suggestions for grass under this tree? Will another type of groundcover such as horseherb be the only solution?

ANSWER:

Your Prosopis glandulosa (Honey mesquite) may not make a deep shade, but the shade and the tree roots will interfere with anything planted beneath it. You are correct, bermudagrass is not tolerant of shade; however, it is also non-native to North America and one of the worst invasive weeds of the South, so you will forgive us if we do not mourn the demise of the bermudagrass. You are also correct that Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss) requires full sun, which we consider to be 6 hours or more of sun a day. Thunder Turf is a branded native seed mix from Native American Seeds. It also requires full sun. Researchers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center have developed a native grass mix Habiturf, which needs about 5 hours a day of sun.

More and more, we are encouraging gardeners to move away from grass or formal lawn, especially in drought-stricken Texas, and more especially, shady lawns. Here is a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer that might point you in some good directions. From another Mr. Smarty Plants answer:

"We would suggest you consider putting something else beneath those trees and perhaps embark on a process of xeriscaping. From eartheasy, here is an excellent article on Xeriscape. Obviously, you do not have to do every single thing suggested for xeriscaping, but you can start small and work your way up. Without knowing exactly what else is going on in your garden, we would suggest covering the offending roots and bare ground with a nice layer of mulch. Please read our How-To Article Under Cover with Mulch.

A good quality shredded bark mulch will make a nice cool surface for the ground, sheltering the tree roots from heat and the sun, discouraging weeds from sprouting and preserving moisture in the soil. It will tend to scatter or decompose, sinking into the soil and making it healthier, over time, but it's an easy fix to spread some more on the area. And it doesn't have to be mowed. We had one letter from a homeowner this week that said they were so over grass, and we feel, in this hot, dry climate, that may be a very good idea."

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Buffalograss
Bouteloua dactyloides

Honey mesquite
Prosopis glandulosa

More Trees Questions

Smaller trees for limited space in yard in Austin
March 29, 2011 - Follow up to "I have a choice of three shade trees from the city of Austin. They are Live Oak, Elm, Cedar. Although I am happy to have a free tree, I think the choices are not the best for my home. I...
view the full question and answer

Will deer eat lemon cypress trees from Hayden ID
June 02, 2012 - Do deer eat lemon cypress trees? We do not think so since they are so spiny, but wanted a clarification.
view the full question and answer

Watering Native Trees in Georgetown, TX
July 19, 2012 - I installed a native/adapted plantscape in early March including several small trees. They were planted in the rocky soil west of I-35 in Georgetown with plenty of added compost and mulch. Other than ...
view the full question and answer

What to do about volunteer trees growing beneath a large live oak tree in Austin, TX
January 08, 2013 - We have a large live oak tree. Several volunteer trees are growing directly underneath it and into its branches. I want to cut them down if they are going to hurt the long term health of the live oak....
view the full question and answer

Encouraging branch growth of live oak trees in Austin
February 10, 2009 - I recently had an elm tree cut down that was crowding out 2 live oak trees in my front yard. The oaks have no branches on the sides that were next to the elm. The elm stump is still there. I need to ...
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 | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center