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

Thursday - June 27, 2013

From: Evanston, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Propagation, Shade Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Illinois native grasses for shade
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

Hello, my grass has died in a very shady area (standard buffalo grass), and I took this as an opportunity to plant some native grass varieties. I originally thought of buffalo grass, but learned that it needs at least 6-8 hours of sun, so it definitely won't work. Do you know of any Illinois-native/midwest-native grasses that are low-maintenance, and shade tolerant, and possibly where I could get the seeds? Thanks.

ANSWER:

 

There are several grass species that should grow well in your shady area.  I will list some in order of height, with the tallest first. Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)Tridens flavus (Purpletop tridens)Elymus canadensis (Canada wild rye)Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats grama)Paspalum setaceum (Thin paspalum) and Brachyelytrum erectum (Bearded shorthusk).

I do not know whether you plan to allow foot traffic in this area. Inland sea oats has especially attractive leaves and seed heads 3-4 feet in height and will thrive in deep shade.  Canada wild rye is good in shade, but it matures early and turns straw-color in midsummer.  Thin paspalum forms a very low rosette but it does send up taller seed heads. The other species generally resemble each other and are probably best in partial shade.  You might be well advised to try more than one of these grasses to see which prospers best in your particular situation.  

These grasses are best grown from seed, which can be purchased online or from a plant nursery near you.  Good luck in finding the perfect match.  Here are photos of some of the suggested grasses.

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

Sideoats grama
Bouteloua curtipendula

Canada wild rye
Elymus canadensis

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Purpletop tridens
Tridens flavus

Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Plants for full-sun landscape
November 20, 2007 - I live in a very rocky area just outside of Fort Worth, TX. It's taken me all spring, summer & now I'm going into the fall, to landscape just 30 feet in front of my house. The front of the house get...
view the full question and answer

Erosion controlling plants for a shady Minnesota lakeside
August 11, 2015 - I live about 50 yards from a lake and there is a steep embankment. Recently someone decided to cut the trees off the embankment and now the dirt is eroding off the embankment as well as off my back ya...
view the full question and answer

Groundcovers for Kingsland TX
October 11, 2012 - I am looking for a list of native ground covers and grasses(not lawn grass).
view the full question and answer

Native grasses for field in Fairfield, TX
August 21, 2008 - We are clearing youpon, briars and small trees from 13 acres of woods near Fairfield, Texas. We want to plant native grass(s) that can tolerate shade and part shade, but also tolerate mowing(shredder...
view the full question and answer

Thunderturf turning brown in Dallas
November 16, 2014 - Thunder Turf turning brown in Dallas, TX: Hi there. I planted new Thunder Turf seed in my entire back yard this past spring. It grew incredibly strong and abundant all summer until about September ...
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center