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 Shade Tolerant Questions

Seed source for Carex texensis from Louisville KY
May 02, 2012 - Your reply to my question re a grass for my Kentucky home with cistern only water available was much appreciated, Carex texensis was recommended. I am unable to find this product for sale other than ...
view the full question and answer

Non-toxic shade trees for horses in Florida
April 01, 2009 - Looking for non poisonous shade trees for pasture with horses. Would prefer flowering or something that changes color. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Privacy hedge for shady area
March 27, 2009 - We are looking to plant a privacy hedge around the perimeter of our yard that will grow to 6 or 8 feet tall - some of the perimeter is exposed to sun and we will likely go with evergreen sumac - howev...
view the full question and answer

Flowering plants for shady garden in Bastrop
July 02, 2010 - We live in Bastrop, 8 miles west of the Historical district. We have a small flower garden in a shady spot around 25 feet from the back patio of our home. We'd like to find out what native plants, f...
view the full question and answer

Trees for shade in Austin
May 20, 2012 - I live in Austin and I am looking for a good tree to plant under a large live oak I have in my backyard. Something slow-growing of course and, the garden only gets late day sun for about an hour. Filt...
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center