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

Groundcover for Oregon gravel path
August 23, 2013 - I'm looking for a native ground cover to grow in the gravel between flagstones in a path in my backyard. The gravel is 1/4-10 so it is very loose. The path gets midday sun but is shaded by the house ...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for heavy clay soil in east Austin
May 02, 2007 - I live in East Austin and have very thick clay soil on my property. I also have a lot of shade and partial sun/shade. Can you suggest some native plant varieties that are well-adapted to these condi...
view the full question and answer

Drought tolerant ground cover for Winter Park, FL
March 09, 2009 - I'm looking to replace my lawn with a drought tolerant ground cover. I do not have a watering system.
view the full question and answer

Alternative for HABITURF® in Contra Costa County, CA
September 17, 2014 - We live in Kensington, just north of Berkeley, in the San Francisco area. We intend to get rid of our water consuming lawn and we are wondering what kind of alternative you would suggest. You don't s...
view the full question and answer

Where to find Horseherb seed
August 02, 2015 - I would like to purchase some Horseherb seeds. Can you tell me where I can do that? Either locally or on line. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

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