Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

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

Thursday - February 19, 2015

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Groundcovers, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Strip Groundcover for Austin, TX
Answered by: Larry Larson

QUESTION:

I live in a condo in Austin (near N Lamar and North Loop), and am on the HOA board. There is a small strip of land along the back of the units, used mostly for access for maintenance - it ranges from about 2 ft wide to about 6 ft at its widest and is surrounded by a 6 ft fence, so the strip gets some direct sun, but also lots of shade depending on where the sun is in the sky. A clean-up crew recently got a little overzealous with the weed-eater, and now it's mostly bare dirt. I'm wondering what our options are for ground cover - maybe horseherb? Mulch or pea gravel has also been suggested as options for covering the dirt as well, with xeriscaping in some of the wider areas. Do you have a recommendation? Thanks!

ANSWER:

This strip sounds a decent candidate for a native groundcover.  With its purpose mostly maintenance access it is expected that the groundcover won’t have to stand up to a lot of traffic, so which one you choose depends on the balance you have between “some” sun and “lots of” shade.  There are several candidates that stay quite short, so you don't necessarily need to worry about the weed-eater guy.

Our classic choice, Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss) requires full sun.  Here’s a How-to article that describes its characteristics and needs.  
A similar good choice, which is more resilient to shade, is a mix of native grasses.  It is called “Habiturf” and may be more appropriate for your mix of sun and shade.  Here is the How-to article for this mix.

    You had suggested Horseherb, Calyptocarpus vialis (Straggler daisy).  This is actually one of Mr Smarty Plants favorites and it covers a fair portion of my back lawn.  It tolerates moderate foot traffic and needs shade.  [“Lots of” – sounds indicative of this!]  Dichondra argentea (Silver ponyfoot) and Phyla nodiflora (Texas frogfruit) are also good candidates for shade applications.

That’s the short version.  There’s a lot more in the Mr Smarty Plants archives from similar questions around Austin that can give you even more insight into solutions that may work well:
Turf grass for a sandy site in central Texas   
Grasses for shady areas  
Shade grasses for central Texas   
Late Blooming Wildflowers for Round Rock   
Native plants and grasses for river bank from Rosanky TX 
O.K. to grow grass under a live oak? 

 

From the Image Gallery


Silver ponyfoot
Dichondra argentea

Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

Buffalograss
Bouteloua dactyloides

Horseherb
Calyptocarpus vialis

More Groundcovers Questions

Plants to put between stepping stones in Virginia
June 07, 2009 - We are a public school in Northern Virginia and are looking for native plants that could be planted between heavily used stepping stones and could withstand some foot traffic (mostly in a sunny spot, ...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for sun in Phenix City, AL
April 04, 2011 - I live in Phenix City, AL and am new to planting. I have a 60 x 15 feet slope that is just dirt. I am going to till it next week and want to plant some various ground cover plants (that will grow to c...
view the full question and answer

Kinnikinnick for a green roof
July 04, 2012 - Hi Mr. Smarty Plants, I live just north of Seattle and want to build a green roof (outdoor kitchen) I'm concerned about the weight of the soil (saturated), drainage etc. am building from scratch and...
view the full question and answer

Eliminating wood roaches from hardwood mulch from San Antonio TX
February 05, 2013 - How can I eliminate the numerous wood roaches in my hardwood mulch that I get for free from the city of San Antonio?
view the full question and answer

Low groundcover for Possum Kingdom
March 02, 2011 - I am seeking a very low ground cover (advised so snakes and rats won't take cover), that is drought resistant and grows on a rocky steep incline to the lake in full afternoon/evening sun at Possum ...
view the full question and answer

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