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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.

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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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Sunday - July 21, 2013

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Non-native St. Augustine grass failing for 5 years in Houston
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My townhome in Houston has a mid-size backyard, which receives full sun for much of the day. I've re-sodded with St. Augustine for 5 consecutive summers, but it consistently dies over time (proper fertilizing and weed control used). Should I give up and try another more resilient grass type? Perhaps Bermuda or something else? Help!! I've spent a lot of money over time and would like a more satisfactory outcome. It's mid-July now. Should I wait to do anything, or can I plant now? Thanks!!

ANSWER:

No kidding? You have been trying and failing to grow a non-native water slurping grass for 5 years and you want Mr. Smarty Plants to tell you what to do? The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is dedicated to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which it is being grown; in your case, Harris County, TX. Even if you had not had trouble growing it, we would have encouraged you to NOT grow it.

From Texas A&M Aggie Horticulture:

"Text and images copyright © Richard Duble. Origin and Distribution. St. Augustine grass is a widely used lawn grass along the Gulf Coast in the U.S., in Southern Mexico, throughout the Caribbean region, South America, South Africa, Western Africa, Australia and the South Pacific and Hawaiian Islands. The species is primarily of tropical origin and is native to sandy beach ridges, fringes of swamps and lagoons, salty and fresh water marshes and limestone shorelines. St. Augustine grass gradually moved inland to naturally open sites such as streambanks, lakeshores and other moist sites. It tolerates a wide range in soil types, but does not withstand waterlogged or droughty sites."

Generally speaking, it is believed to be of African origin and has been widely planted in southern coastal areas of North America. If you can't grow it in Houston, you should try something else. Since is out of our area of expertise, we can only guess that the drought and watering restrictions, too much watering or a problem with the soils may  be causing the constant failure of the grass. Let us refer you to some previous Mr. Smarty Plants answers that may give you some ideas of an alternative strategy. Be sure and follow all the links in each answer. And, by the by, who told you what "proper fertilizing and weed control" was?

Seabrook, TX

Austin, TX

Conroe, TX

 

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