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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

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