En Español

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 Shade Tolerant Questions

Deer resistant, drought and shade tolerant plants to go under oak tree in Austin
March 21, 2011 - What is the best deer resistant, drought resistant native plant to grow under my huge Oak tree? Grass does not grow. Will iris bloom?
view the full question and answer

Saving or transplanting stand of white trillium that has lost shade
May 29, 2006 - We have a generous stand of white trillium that has been under the shade of a white oak for many years. Now the 100+ year old oak has died and the trilliums are in the sun. Are we in danger of losin...
view the full question and answer

ground covers for shady areas in New York City
June 27, 2011 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants: What would be the best ground covers for big shady areas in New York City instead of lawns?
view the full question and answer

Native Plants for a Shaded Patio Container in Missouri
April 17, 2015 - What kind of native plants would grow well in a pot on a fully shaded patio? I live in Kansas City, Missouri. The patio faces north and doesn't get any direct sunlight, but it gets lots of indirect...
view the full question and answer

Native plants with little sun and northern exposure for New York
April 26, 2006 - I live in a co-op and want to fix up the backyard. The backyard area has a west area to plant with a northern exposure and little sun and I am looking to plant something to cover the area. I would lik...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center