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Thursday - July 07, 2016

From: Martin, GA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Groundcovers, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Grass Groundcover for Georgia Hillside
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I am looking for a grass to cover a hillside area down to a lake. It is mostly sunny in the spring & summer, but has no moisture except any rain that falls. I am not interested in having to mow it all season, is there a plant for this? Can I mix wildflowers in with it?

ANSWER:

Thanks for your question and sorry for the delay in replying.

The Native Plant Database did come up with a list of several grasses (and grass-like) Georgia native plants that might work for your sunny hillside. Search for the following categories: Georgia, grass/grass-like, perennial, sun, dry and 3' or less.

Some suggestions to consider:

Aristida stricta (pineland threeawn)

This wiry, clumping grass grows to 2 feet tall and is the principal grass found in Southeastern Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) savannahs from Mississippi eastward. It is fire-dependent, setting seed only after being burned. In the garden, it maintains a tidy shape.

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Side-oats grama is a bunchy or sod-forming grass with 2-3 ft. stems in erect, wiry clumps. Purplish, oat-like spikelets uniformly line one side of the stem, bleaching to a tan color in the fall. The basal foliage often turns shades of purple and red in fall. This is a perennial warm season grass; clump forming. Two varieties are recognized: variety curtipendula is shorter and more rhizomatous and ranges from southern Canada to Argentina. Variety caespitosa spreads more by seed than by rhizomes, is more of a bunchgrass, and is restricted mostly to southwestern North America.

Not only is Sideoats Grama the state grass of Texas, but this medium-tall grass mixes well in plantings with spring wildflowers, because it stays short in the spring. Birds love the ripe seeds. In nature, this plant increases rapidly when its site is damaged by drought or grazing.

Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss)

Buffalograss is a soft, gray-green or blue-green, perennial turf grass which grows 3-12 inches if left unmowed and spreads by rhizomes. This long-lived, warm-season, sod-forming grass has curly leaf blades, slender stems, and compact seed heads.

One of very few drought-tolerant North American grasses suitable for lawn use, and the only one widely available, Buffalograss has become very popular since the late 1980s. (Two other drought-tolerant native lawn grasses are Blue Grama/B. gracilis and Curly Mesquite Grass/Hilaria belangeri.) Buffalograss does best in clay loam, where it can survive on as little as one and a half inches of rainfall per month. In areas with even less rainfall, Buffalograss is sometimes mixed with the more drought-tolerant Blue Grama (B. gracilis) to insure solid color through the dry season. Cultivars 'Texoka' and 'Comanche' were bred for forage and can reach 12 inches. 609, Prairie, and Stampede are lawn selections. ' Stampede' doesn't get taller than 4 inches. Buffalograss lawns can be mowed or left to billow softly in the wind.

Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge)

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)

Pennsylvania sedge is a low, clumped, grass-like perennial, 6-12 in. high, with a cluster of brown seed capsules clinging high on the stem. Foliage is pale-green in spring and summer, turning sandy-tan in fall.

Rhizomatous turf-forming with pale-green arching leaves. Forms ground cover in forest or savannah (oak/pine or sugar maple) Prefers light-textured soils. Resistant to deer grazing. (Ontario Native Plants 2002)

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

Texas Sedge, one of the most common sedges in central Texas, is a good turf substitute for dry to moist shade, colonizing densely by rhizomes. Its fine-textured foliage mixes nicely with other small, shade-loving plants like Cedar Sage (Salvia roemeriana), Baby Blue Eyes (Nemophila phacelioides), and White Avens (Geum canadense) to create a serene woodland garden. It can be mowed at a high setting

Digitaria cognata (Carolina crabgrass)

Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie dropseed)

Prairie dropseed is a fine-textured, distinctive bunchgrass with leaves that curve gracefully outward forming large, round tufts. Delicate seedheads appear above the tuft in midsummer, rising 2 ft. high. Fall color is tan-bronze. Prairie dropseed is a perennial.

Snow does not flatten the plant, so it is visible even in winter. Slow growing and slow to establish.
A clump forming warm season grass. Foliage turns golden with orange hues in fall, fading to light bronze in winter. Flowers have pink and brown tints, but are perhaps most noted for their unique fragrance.

You can mix wildflowers with your native grasses for a meadow effect. Check out the Native Plant Database (www.wildflower.org/plants/) for some suggestions. Use the same search as above but change the grass category to herb.

 

From the Image Gallery


Pineland threeawn
Aristida stricta

Pineland threeawn
Aristida stricta

Sideoats grama
Bouteloua curtipendula

Pennsylvania sedge
Carex pensylvanica

Sideoats grama
Bouteloua curtipendula

Buffalograss
Bouteloua dactyloides

Buffalograss
Bouteloua dactyloides

Eastern woodland sedge
Carex blanda

Texas sedge
Carex texensis

Carolina crabgrass
Digitaria cognata

Prairie dropseed
Sporobolus heterolepis

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