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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.

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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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Wednesday - September 16, 2015

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Drought Tolerant, Groundcovers, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Groundcover for Shade in Spicewood
Answered by: Larry Larson

QUESTION:

We live in Spicewood area in Austin, TX. Our front yard is yellow almost all summer, I was thinking of replacing lawn with a ground cover which can live on once a week sprinkler and no mowing. Also there are couple of large trees, so its mostly shaded. Is there any plant/ground cover you recommend which is not hard to maintain and easy on the eye. We have cats but no walking traffic in that area.

ANSWER:

This Mr. Smarty Plants recently addressed a similar question [Lawn for a Shady & Wet area in Austin, TX].  This response substantially tracks that one, but I reviewed the candidates for plants which prefer a dryer area.

I always try to review what has come down on Mr Smarty Plants before, I found the following when searching the MSP archives for Austin groundcovers for shady application:
Compatibility of mixed ground covers with St. Augustine grass
Strip Groundcover for Austin, TX
  
Shade grasses for central Texas  
Native lawn replacement for shady areas in Austin  
Sunny and shady lawns from Austin  
Grass for shady area  

There’s plenty more, but that’s probably enough.

You didn’t specify how much shade you had, notice that there is a difference in recommendations between full shade [< 2 hrs sun], partial shade [2-6 hours of sun] and "sun" is more exposure.  Some grasses can deal with partial shade, but for full shade, most of the time sedges and groundcovers are recommended.

In reading those recommendations- These look like good possibilities:

Groundcovers:  Calyptocarpus vialis (Straggler daisy), Phyla nodiflora (Texas frogfruit), Geum canadense (White avens) 

Sedges: Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge), Carex planostachys (Cedar sedge), Carex texensis (Texas sedge) 

Grasses:   Paspalum setaceum (Thin paspalum), Bouteloua hirsuta (Hairy grama), Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem) 

Herbs:  Salvia lyrata (Lyreleaf sage), Salvia roemeriana (Cedar sage), Callirhoe involucrata (Winecup), Chamaecrista fasciculata (Partridge pea)

 

From the Image Gallery


Horseherb
Calyptocarpus vialis



White avens
Geum canadense

Eastern woodland sedge
Carex blanda

Cedar sedge
Carex planostachys

Texas sedge
Carex texensis

Hairy grama
Bouteloua hirsuta

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Lyreleaf sage
Salvia lyrata

Cedar sage
Salvia roemeriana

Winecup
Callirhoe involucrata

Partridge pea
Chamaecrista fasciculata

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