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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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Monday - July 29, 2013

From: Dallas, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Groundcovers, Shade Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Ground cover for shady area in north Texas
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

I'm looking for a ground cover for a mostly shady area where St. Augustine won't grow. I don't want the ground cover to overtake my established St. Augustine in the rest of the yard. The area is under a huge red oak. Will the Straggler Daisy compete with St. Augustine? What are some other suggestions? Thanks from Dallas, Tx!

ANSWER:

You are not alone in trying to solve this problem.  Mr. Smarty Plants has answered several such questions, and the following one is typical.  Straggler daisy will not seriously encroach on St. Augustine in a sunny spot, although it might form a very small colony along the edge of shade. I have tried several sedge species, and Cedar sedge is the only one that remains quite low in growth habit.  It complements St. Augustine nicely but is  slow-growing compared to Straggler daisy. Other low-growing, perennial species include the above-mentioned frogfruit and Ruellia humilis (Fringeleaf wild petunia) and Viola sororia (Missouri violet).  I have found these to look good when mowed at a height of 4 inches under red oaks.  The violet seems to need a bit more water than the others.  Be patient!

Other recommended species with a higher growth habit include Aquilegia chrysantha var. hinckleyana (Hinckley's golden columbine) and Echinacea purpurea (Eastern purple coneflower).  In addition to the Inland sea oats recommended above, a lower growing grass, Paspalum setaceum (Thin paspalum), grows well in shade.

In my experience in Austin, only Dichondra carolinensis (Carolina ponysfoot) and Oxalis stricta (Common yellow oxalis) show any sigh of infiltrating a healthy St. Augustine sod.

Most of these plants should be available at one of your local plant nurseries.

Images of some of the suggested plants are shown below.

 

From the Image Gallery


Prairie petunia
Ruellia humilis

Missouri violet
Viola sororia

Hinckley's golden columbine
Aquilegia chrysantha var. hinckleyana

Eastern purple coneflower
Echinacea purpurea

Thin paspalum
Paspalum setaceum

Common yellow oxalis
Oxalis stricta

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