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 Soils Questions

Native Plants by Soil Type
June 17, 2015 - Can't find an appropriate place to ask this - would love to be able to search for plants that do best in acidic soil (soil pH) another filter on the search screen. May not be there because the data...
view the full question and answer

Native plants suitable for clay soils in College Station, Texas
November 26, 2013 - Where might I find a list of native plants suitable for clay soils in the College Station TX area?
view the full question and answer

Requirements to grow Lupinus albifrons
October 07, 2008 - What is required to grow Lupinus albifrons? Temp., soil mix, alkaline or acid, etc.?
view the full question and answer

Is it OK to remove soil around oaks - Austin, TX.
May 24, 2013 - I have several oaks trees (one live oak + burr oaks) from 15'-35' in height. They seem healthy. A local arborist says they were planted too deep and that the soil around them needs to be excavated t...
view the full question and answer

Adding Wildflowers to Corpus Christi
May 20, 2012 - I have a dry sandy yard, full sun in Corpus Christi with lot's of stickers mostly, want to transform to wildflowers. When should I plant, how should I prepare soil, should I dig out stickers? Which w...
view the full question and answer

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