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?


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 - September 12, 2013

From: Burgettstown, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Propagation, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Removal of non-native zoysia grass from Burgettstown PA
Answered by: Barbara Medford


What is the most effective method of killing zoysia grass? We bought a house that sits in the center of four acres of mature zoysia. It looks beautiful, however, despite our best efforts at "weeding the garden" area, the grass tendrils have rooted within the planting area. We have hoed weeds, covered weeds, even used commercial sprays to our dismay because that garden section became unusable for this summer. The zoysia and weeds thrive!! Please help. Thank you.


Welcome to our world! We cannot tell you how many questions we get from people in North America and even around the world wanting to know how to get out of bad situations, usually situations for which they are not to blame. Many of these questions are about planting or not planting plants that are invasive, not native to North America or to the area in which they live and then they suffer the consequences. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is comitted to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which those plants are being grown; in your case, Washington County, PA, on the west central border with Ohio. In other words, two native plants might be native to North America; one native to Pennsylvania might fry in the Texas climate and one native to Texas would no doubt freeze to death in Pennsylvania. This can have to do with the climate, rainfall and soils being incompatible with some plants and totally hospitable to others.

All this, however, makes little difference in your situation, because Zoysiagrass (as it is often called) is not native to North America at all, but rather to southeast Asia, China and Japan. Because it is not native to North America, we have nothing about it in our Native Plant Database, and if you go into a nursery to ask about it, they will either sing its praises or recommend a broad-spectrum herbicide, which you already know is a bad mistake. To try to find you some more impartial information, we went to the University of Rhode Island Landscape and Horticulture Program and found this article on Zoysiagrass. Continue reading and scrolling down that page to read the portions on 'Advantages" and "Disadvantages"and further down to "Elimination of Zoysiagrass." 

So, we are not making much progress with your immediate problem. We tried to find some better information and found this article from Gardening Know How Removing Zoysia Grass: How to Contain Zoysia Grass. Beyond that, we have one last suggestion which we have repeatd several times to others struggling with the lawn issue.

It's called 'lose the lawn." To help you know what page we are on in terms of lawn grasses, please read this recent article from the New York Times "Lose the Lawn". From a recent answer on impossible problems with lawns:

More and more, we are encouraging gardeners to move away from grass or formal lawn,  Here is a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer that might point you in some good directions. From another Mr. Smarty Plants answer:

We would suggest you perhaps embark on a process of xeriscaping. From eartheasy, here is an excellent article on Xeriscape. Obviously, you do not have to do every single thing suggested for xeriscaping, but you can start small and work your way up. We had one letter from a homeowner this week that said they were so over grass, and we feel that may be a very good idea.

We fully realize that you first have to get rid of the zoysiagrass, maybe in smaller, manageable portions, perhaps using a sod cutter as suggested in one of the above references. We truly wish we had a magic formula to instantly make the grass disappear but, short of a time machine to go back and not plant the stuff, we have nothing.


More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Plants for narrow strip between sidewalk and fence
May 01, 2008 - I have a strip of land about 5 inches wide and 30 feet long -- between the fence and the sidewalk -- that I would like to plant something that would look nice and wouldn't require the weedeater every...
view the full question and answer

Photos of Muhlenbergia rigida (purple muhly)
August 31, 2011 - I have some potential images of Muhlenbergia rigida / Purple Muhley, I would like to share. (at the suggestion of a fellow blogger). Let me know if that plant is needed - thanks!
view the full question and answer

Non-allergenic landscape in Fairfield, CT
April 18, 2009 - I live in Fairfield, CT and need to have a non-allergenic landscape. Can you please list plants, ground covers, and trees/shrubs that would be beautiful, and help in this critical situation? The lan...
view the full question and answer

Drought tolerant grass with little need for mowing for Hill Country of Texas
November 17, 2011 - What grass would you recommend for the hill country of Texas that is drought tolerant and does not need frequent mowing?
view the full question and answer

Trimming inland sea oats from Waco TX
January 30, 2013 - Re: Inland Sea Oats and trimming back in early spring "It passes through most of winter a soft brown, but becomes tattered and gray by February, a good time to cut it back to the basal rosette." ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center