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 Planting Questions

Brown, dry leaves on weeping willow tree
May 01, 2008 - We live in central TX and have just planted a weeping willow tree. Our back yard has a retention pond and ravine that parallels our property and we were told that the weeping willow will do perfectly ...
view the full question and answer

Fertilizer producing leaves over flower production in Austin
June 27, 2010 - Can you please list which Central Texas perennials' will favor leaf growth over flower production when fertilized? I have many in the "Grown Green" booklet and need to know which flowering plants s...
view the full question and answer

Need suggestions for a small tree for cemetery in NH.
August 30, 2012 - I would like suggestions for picking a SMALL tree for a rural cemetery in Winchester, NEW HAMPSHIRE. Would the delicate Japanese Elm be suitable for the weather, etc?
view the full question and answer

Yucca elata flowering in Tauranga, NZ.
August 20, 2009 - I have two huuuuuuge Yucca elatas in my garden. One of them flowered spectacularly last year - a 15ft stalk that grew so quickly you could hear it, and then burst into a cloud of waxy cream flowers. M...
view the full question and answer

Butterfly plants from Austin TX
December 17, 2012 - I have a butterfly garden in the front part of the house facing the south side. However it is also mostly under a few Oak trees that cast shadow over half of the front yard starting early afternoon. ...
view the full question and answer

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