Explore Plants

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
    
 

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

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 Turf Questions

Need help with lawn that was sodded with Buffalo Grass in Dallas, TX.
March 20, 2012 - I had buffalo sod put down last March. It greened up beautifully until weeds just about covered it up. I tried hand pulling. My landscaper showed up with something that appeared to damage the buffa...
view the full question and answer

Replacing non-native lawn grasses in an HOA in Kyle TX
March 27, 2009 - We just rounded out our first year with our first lawn here in Central Texas. I was stingy with the water and needless to say our non-native, Bermuda grass and St. Augustine lawn did not fare well. Id...
view the full question and answer

Looking for a native turf grass for the Houston area
July 25, 2013 - Looking for a native turf grass for the Houston area. In some of your 2012 responses, you stated that "The good news is that research into turf-type grasses native to the coastal region is in the pla...
view the full question and answer

Low maintenance, water and height lawn
September 10, 2007 - We would like to replace our lawn that covers a large area of our front and back yard and is watered daily and twice a day in summertime with drought resistant plants. Mr. Smarty Plants, could you rec...
view the full question and answer

Source for nitrates and phosphorus (P205) for lawn care
July 04, 2008 - I recently supplied soil samples from my back yard to my local extension here in Austin. I have a hybrid Bermuda turf grass (TIF 419) that has had its share of ups and downs, and wanted to assess the ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.