Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

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

More Groundcovers Questions

Groundcover for Lighthouse Point FL
April 13, 2012 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants: I am looking for mowable ground cover for part of my back yard. Due to a Mahogany tree, a hammock, surrounding foliage and a fence, there is alot of shade in the area, alon...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for Laredo Texas
July 04, 2011 - I am in Laredo, TX and no longer want to waste water on grass. I would like to pull it all out and plant native, drought resistant ground cover - low growing, between 6-12 inches, sun and partial sha...
view the full question and answer

Ground covers for sandy hill in New York
April 12, 2006 - We have just built a new home and a sandy fill was needed around the house. It sits on a hill and the fill is very sandy. We would like to plant something to stabilize the bank that is native to the a...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen groundcover under pine tree in NY
May 23, 2008 - Hello! I live in upstate NY. I'm trying to find an evergreen ground cover to plant under a pine tree. I believe it's a white spruce (but I'm not postive). I've read conflicting information reg...
view the full question and answer

Pet-friendly plants for ground cover in Bastrop TX
June 21, 2010 - Any pet-friendly plants that can be used for ground-cover in Central Texas?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.