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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - June 29, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Drought Tolerant, Privacy Screening, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Tall native grasses for privacy in Central Texas
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

Hi- I am looking for a grass that will grow tall and be thick for privacy. I live here in Austin east of 35. Obviously something draught tolerant would be great! Thank you!

ANSWER:

I can suggest several native grass species that grow 6-8 feet tall and are relatively drought resistant once established.

Muhlenbergia lindheimeri (Lindheimer's muhly) is my top choice if you have alkaline soil (limestone or caliche).  It matures into large clumps that remain attractive year-round.

Andropogon gerardii (Big bluestem) would also be good and adapts to a variety of soil types.  It's clumps may be a bit thinner that those of Lindheimer's muhly.

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass), when planted in mass, produces a specacular show of tall yellow flowers.  But the grass is rather short until the blooming season in late summer and fall.

Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass) grows to about 6 feet in a wide variety of soil types.  To my taste, the clumps have a rather untidy appearance compared with the other three species.

Click on each of these grass names to view information about them on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Plant Database.  Shown below are images of the grasses I mentioned.  Seeds for the grasses can be obtained at Native American Seeds, and some of them may be available as established plants at local nurseries.

 

From the Image Gallery


Lindheimer's muhly
Muhlenbergia lindheimeri

Big bluestem
Andropogon gerardii

Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

Switchgrass
Panicum virgatum

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