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

Tuesday - June 18, 2013

From: Roeland Park, KS
Region: Midwest
Topic: Groundcovers, Grasses or Grass-like, Shrubs
Title: Groundcovers over roots in Roeland Park KS
Answered by: Larry Larson

QUESTION:

Large Hackberry tree (aprox 50+years) roots are popping up above ground making mowing under/around it impossible. Is there a plant, ground cover, something I can plant, or cover the roots with that will not harm this wonderful tree?

ANSWER:

   I don’t think you have to be too worried about your Celtis laevigata (Sugar hackberry) as it is native to most of the Mid- and Southern US and is a very well adapted species.  Still, Mr Smarty Plants knows your issue as we have a Hackberry just beyond the back fence and the roots make mowing there very difficult.

  I’m thinking where your question is headed is that you want a groundcover or ornamental shrub so that you can plant them over the rooted area and thus forgo mowing. 

As to possible groundcovers, Here are two previous Mr Smarty Plants question/answer pairs towards the use of groundcovers.
Shade ground cover under honeysuckle from Wichita KS
Groundcover for part shade/shade in Oklahoma.

From these, I can suggest Viola missouriensis (Missouri violet) and Phyla nodiflora (Texas frogfruit) as good choices, they grow to about 6” high and have a pleasing enough appearance that you may not need to mow over those roots [while they will be hidden!]

Similarly, here are two question/answer pairs towards the use of grasses.
Native Grasses for Kansas City 
Turf grass for part-time home from Louisville KY  
The Wildflower Center recommends a turfgrass mix called "Habiturf".  This is the "How-to" article with information.   Obviously, a properly chosen native grass can be very attractive and naturally keep to a length that means you don't need to mow under the Hackberry.  

 In either case, one of the issues you will need to deal with is that for the planting to be totally successfull, you will need to remove the grass and patrol the area until the natives are well established to keep whatever is there down until the area is converted.

Adding some shrubs for visual interest may be something you desire.  My recommendation is to use the "Recommended Species" page for Kansas, then select "Shrub" as habit.  This leaves you with a list of 15 posssible native shrubs. From my examination of this list, low shrubs that have some ornamental nature include Ceanothus americanus (New jersey tea), Rosa blanda (Smooth rose), and Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (Coralberry)

 

From the Image Gallery


Missouri violet
Viola missouriensis

Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

Missouri violet
Viola missouriensis

Blue grama
Bouteloua gracilis

Prairie verbena
Glandularia bipinnatifida

Texas sedge
Carex texensis

New jersey tea
Ceanothus americanus

Smooth rose
Rosa blanda

Coralberry
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

More Shrubs Questions

Privacy hedge for Palm Springs CA
July 04, 2013 - Dear Mr. Smarty Pants I have a 6 foot block wall, and my house is elevated, and I need a privacy hedge or tree (even flowering) to create more privacy. I do not want to use Ficus as I hear they can d...
view the full question and answer

Repairing the split trunk of a TX mountain laurel
February 28, 2015 - I have a fairly large mountain laurel that I just realized has a split down the trunk. Is there anything I can do to save it?
view the full question and answer

Evergreen screening plant for California
May 08, 2012 - I am looking for an evergreen plant that can be used as a screen. Maybe something wispy. Any suggestions?
view the full question and answer

Forestiera pubescens blooming in July
August 07, 2012 - I have a lot of what appears to be Forestiera pubescens. They are covered with the dark blue/black berries and flowers. Apparently they are blooming again in the middle of July. I live about 35 mile...
view the full question and answer

Landscaping with native plants in Austin
October 06, 2005 - I'm expanding a flower bed in front of my house and would like to keep it all natives. 1) How do I find out what type of soil I should add? (I live near Hyde Park, Austin and haven't had a soil te...
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