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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - July 06, 2015

From: Longmont, CO
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Pollinators, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Pollinator friendly lawn for Longmont CO
Answered by: Larry Larson

QUESTION:

I have a sunny, treeless, South-facing yard, with a slight South-facing slope in Boulder County, CO. It has one patch of buffalo grass, but is more then half some other type of grass. I would like to get flowering plants for bees mixed into the lawn - something like dutch clover that can be allowed to flower, or be cut short for kids to play on. The lawn, including the buffalo grass tends to get a lot of weeds, so I would also like to add species that would help make the lawn more weed resistant. My goal is for the whole lawn to be low or slow growing, native, and needing little water. I need species that are not toxic to animals and chickens. Species/varieties that might work, and ratio suggestions would be appreciated.

ANSWER:

Mr Smarty Plants loves your idea!  However, you’ve asked most of the right questions and it’s a bit of a complex situation that will take some time to work out.  In my own backyard I have a mix somewhat like what you describe and its worked out pretty well to start the species that I’d like to see there, then let the species that thrive do so!  How about I suggest a few pollinator friendly species that will be very low, then we can let the plants take it from there.  We also have links to resources to investigate whether something may be toxic.

For pollinator plants, the Wildflower Center has a few special collections [through a collaboration with the Xerces Society] that feature plants which are bee friendly.   The link to the Special Collections is featured on pretty much each page of the Wildflower Website.  Deep within it are links to plants of Special Value to Native Bees [also to Bumble Bees, Honey Bees and nesting material for Bees]

All of these special collections can be sorted for a number of characteristics.  If I take that Native Bee collection and select plants that are native to Colorado and 0-1 feet tall – There are 26 candidates.  Give them some consideration!

I would consider Rubus pubescens (Dwarf red blackberry), Fragaria virginiana (Virginia strawberry)Potentilla nivea (Snow cinquefoil) and possibly Tradescantia occidentalis (Prairie spiderwort) as good candidates for your lawn application.

This past question to Mr. Smarty Plants asked a similar question to yours with respect to toxic nature [although they are worried about their horses]. The answer is worth exploring. It includes suggestions and a number of web sites that will help determine what plants are poisonous.  This question to Mr. Smarty Plants has an even more extensive list of sites that will help determine what plants you should avoid.

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Dwarf red blackberry
Rubus pubescens

Virginia strawberry
Fragaria virginiana

Snow cinquefoil
Potentilla nivea

Prairie spiderwort
Tradescantia occidentalis

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