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

Friday - October 25, 2013

From: Iowa City, IA
Region: Midwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant, Turf, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Alternative for sedges for turf-like lawn in shade
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

When it comes to a turf-like lawn in shade, is it pretty much sedges or nothing among native options? By the way, I write from up north here in Iowa. Thanks!

ANSWER:

If you are wanting a turf-like lawn in the shade, it is pretty much going to have to be sedges.  Here are three possibilities:

Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge)

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)

Carex plantaginea (Plantainleaf sedge)

You can read an article from Brooklyn Botanic Garden by John Greenlee, Sedge Lawns for Every Landscape, that gives you more information about sedges for turf. 

Here are a few grasses that are native to Iowa and will grow in the shade or part shade.  They are not turf grasses, however, but they are attractive:

Bouteloua hirsuta (Hairy grama)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Melica nitens (Three-flower melic)

Muhlenbergia schreberi (Nimblewill)

If you have some sunny areas that will grow turf grass and some areas that are shady, you might consider putting ferns or groundcover herbaceous plants in the shade areas.

Here are some ferns that could do well in a shady area in Iowa:

Adiantum pedatum (Northern maidenhair)

Athyrium filix-femina (Common ladyfern)

Dryopteris cristata (Crested woodfern)

Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)

The following are herbaceous groundcovers that grow well in the shade.

Asarum canadense (Canadian wild ginger)

Fragaria virginiana (Virginia strawberry)

Tiarella cordifolia (Heartleaf foamflower)

Waldsteinia fragarioides (Appalachian barren strawberry)

Viola adunca (Hooked-spur violet)

Viola canadensis (Canadian white violet)

Viola missouriensis (Missouri violet)

Viola pedata (Birdfoot violet)

Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper) is a vine that will happily grow along the ground as a groundcover.

 

 

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Best time to plant Habiturf in Austin
February 20, 2012 - When is the best time to plant Habiturf seeds?
view the full question and answer

Small, flowering, evergreen plants for hillside in Austin.
October 27, 2007 - I have a steep, dry hillside measuring approximately 4 feet high by six feet wide. I want to plant low growing, evergreen, flowering plants across the bed that will flower as long as possible, and thr...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover to control hillside erosion in Illinois
May 04, 2014 - I have seen some other questions regarding native plants for erosion control, but I am looking specifically for plants that will do well on a hill in partial to full shade. I am told the soil in our a...
view the full question and answer

Native grasses for wood planter box in Houston
August 04, 2011 - Hi, I'm making a long wood planter box/bench for my wood deck. The area gets direct sun only in the late afternoon/evening and the deck serves as a play space for our one-year old son. I'd like to...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a Zen garden in North Carolina
November 03, 2007 - I am looking for plants that would be suitable for a ZEN style garden in North Carolina
view the full question and answer

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