Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

Support the plant database you love!

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

Sunday - November 16, 2014

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Shade Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Shade grasses for central Texas
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

We are new to the area and bought a home this summer that has lots of shade in the very small backyard. The problem is that there was new sod laid in the backyard which now is 50% dead. We do not know if there was not enough water or died because of shade. We have a larger dog so having grass for the dog to use is very important. We did hire an arborist about 6 weeks ago to trim trees. The backyard is to the west and there are numerous large slanting live oaks. What is the best shade grass to plant? The sunlight is only filtered through the trees. Is having any grass grow possible? How do we evaluate sunlight? What type of grass would you recommend? There is still some thin grass remaining on one section that they planted but we can not figure out what kind it is? Thank you for your advice.

ANSWER:

Unfortunataely, there are no good native turf grasses that do well in shade.  You may have had St. Augustine sod (that is a non-native which does fairly well in light shade, but we don't recommend it because of the high amount of water it requires).

One grass that I grow in shade as a ground cover is Paspalum setaceum (Thin paspalum).  It grows only a few inches high and the rather unattractive foot-tall seed heads can be controlled by mowing.  If you and your dog can accept taller species, consider the following suggestions, taken from a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer:

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama), the State Grass of Texas, 2-3 feet

Bouteloua hirsuta (hairy grama), 10-18 inches

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats), 2-4 feet, a particularly attractive plant

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye), 2-4 feet

Poa arachnifera (Texas bluegrass), 2-3 feet

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem), 2-4 feet

You might also consider using sedges.  They make very good groundcovers and they tend to be rather short.  You can read about their use for lawns in Sedge Lawns for Every Landscape by John Greenlee.

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge), 1-3 feet

Carex cherokeensis (Cherokee sedge), 12-18 inches

Carex planostachys (cedar sedge), less than 12 inches

Carex texensis (Texas sedge), 10-12 inches

Finally, here are groundcovers that aren't grasses or grass-like, are less than 18 inches high and will grow in the shade or part shade.

Seeds for many of these plants may be obtained at your local plant nurseries.  Native American Seed is a particularly good source.

Calyptocarpus vialis (straggler daisy)

Phyla nodiflora (turkey tangle fogfruit)

Geum canadense (white avens)


Bouteloua curtipendula     Bouteloua hirsuta         Chasmanthium latifolium
    
Elymus canadensis        Poa arachnifera               Carex blanda
 


Carex cherokeensis                       Carex planostachys                     Carex texens
is

 

 

 

 


Calyptocarpus vialis                    Phyla nodiflora                         Geum canadense

 

 

 

 

From the Image Gallery



More Shade Tolerant Questions

Starting shade-tolerant ground covers in New York
September 10, 2013 - Hi, I have seen some of the posts for shade-tolerant ground cover on the east end of Long Island and my question is process related. Now that I've identified the grasses/plants I need to keep my fro...
view the full question and answer

Shade-loving native plants for South Carolina
January 08, 2008 - I am looking to incorporate a native plants section in my backyard. Shade seems to be a limiting factor in some parts, especially where I would look to create a natural hedge bordering my neighbor's...
view the full question and answer

Plant Suggestions for Shady Site under Trees in Alabama
April 03, 2014 - I live in Montgomery, AL and have a bare area (20' x 5) that's shady and soil erosion is a problem. Grass stops growing at the drip line of the trees here. Do you have any suggestions for growing s...
view the full question and answer

Shade tree for El Paso, Texas
May 18, 2010 - hi there, I am looking to plant a shade tree in front of my house, about 10ft away from my house and about 6ft away from the sidewalk. I live in El Paso TX and I am afraid that the tree roots will int...
view the full question and answer

Native grasses for dry shade in North Central Texas
March 09, 2008 - I live in North Central Texas and have an area that is 80% shade and a dry soil condition. What native grasses would be suitable for this location?
view the full question and answer

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