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
1 rating

Monday - February 16, 2015

From: Bastrop, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Soils, Turf, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Turf grass for a sandy site in central Texas
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

I want to plant grass over an old sand volleyball court in our back yard in Bastrop, Texas. What is the best way to go? Adding top soil and buffalo grass seed or try St. Augustine?

ANSWER:

You could plant Buffalo grass, but the Wildflower Center recommends a mixture of three grass species sold as Habiturf.  The web site describes how the site should be prepared and the seeds planted.  I think you should remove most of the sand if it is still present in abundance.

From what you write I assume that the site is in nearly full sun. That is good for Habiturf.  Habiturf and most other turf grasses will not thrive in shade.  St. Augustine will grow well in light shade, but we don't recommend it because it requires a lot of water.  If you have more than two or three hours of shade daily a ground cover of bunch grasses or non-grass ground covers should be considered.

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 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 at a web site on How to Plant a Sedge Lawn.

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.

Calyptocarpus vialis (straggler daisy)

Phyla nodiflora (turkey tangle fogfruit)

Geum canadense (white avens)

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


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


Carex cherokeensis                       Carex planostachys                     Carex texensis

 

 

 

 


Calyptocarpus vialis                    Phyla nodiflora                         Geum canadense

 

 

 

 

 

From the Image Gallery

 

 

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Plant to stabilize river bank in Wisconsin
July 10, 2011 - We live along the Chippewa River in Pepin County WI and are looking for a blooming plant to help "hold" our river bank and also look attractive..it must be strong enough to take the spring flood.
view the full question and answer

Bunch grasses for labyrinth that are good for livestock
September 29, 2013 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I'm designing an outdoor labyrinth that will be in full sun in our black Slidell clay soil here in north central Texas. The area MAY be mowed for hay at a later date (i.e...
view the full question and answer

Plants for Liberty Hill TX in full sun
April 15, 2008 - We recently bought an acre of land in Liberty Hill, TX. We have a large planting area in the front that is devoid of any plant life. I would like to turn this into a semi shaded area with some annua...
view the full question and answer

When does Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss) go to seed in southern US?
August 06, 2014 - When does Bouteloua dactyloides go to seed in the southern United States, mainly Texas?
view the full question and answer

Ground cover to control hillside erosion in Illinois
May 04, 2014 - I have seen some other questions regarding native plants for erosion control, but I am looking specifically for plants that will do well on a hill in partial to full shade. I am told the soil in our a...
view the full question and answer

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