Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

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
2 ratings

Sunday - December 30, 2007

From: Austin , TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Grass or ground cover for sun/part shade in Austin
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live in Southwest Austin (a couple of miles from the Wildflower Center) and I would like to plant some grass in my backyard. I have a small yard with several oak trees and they have been cut back to allow some sun to come through. So, at this point I have part sun/shade. Can you recommend a grass that I can plant? or is it best to use a ground cover? also, when should I do this? Now(December/January) or is it best to wait until Spring? Thanks!

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants' top choice for a native turf grass is Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss). It requires little water and doesn't need mowing very often. It does best in full sun, but will also work with some shade. So, depending on how much sun you have, it may be a good choice for your yard. Another sun-loving short native grass is Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama). Native American Seed has an excellent article, Planting Tips for Native Grasses, with information on preparing the soil and planting seeds. Seed sowing should be done in the spring. It is also possible to find buffalograss sod and plugs to install in the spring. Please see the article, "Native Lawns", in our How to Articles.

Another grass-like possibility for your lawn is one of the sedges, such as Carex texensis (Texas sedge), Carex perdentata (sand sedge) or Carex planostachys (cedar sedge). They are all low-growing, require little water and do well in sun or part shade. You can read an article, "Sedge Lawns for Every Landscape" by John Greenlee, with more information about using sedges as an alternative to grass.

There are also a couple of low-growing plants that could work well as a groundcover, also:

Calyptocarpus vialis (straggler daisy)

Phyla nodiflora (frogfruit)

Finally, you can look for nurseries and seed companies in your area that specialize in native plants by visiting our National Suppliers Directory.


Bouteloua dactyloides

Bouteloua gracilis

Carex texensis

Carex perdentata

Carex planostachys

Calyptocarpus vialis

Phyla nodiflora

 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Plant for part sun in Nampa Idaho
May 20, 2010 - What could I plant in arid SW Idaho on the northwest side of my house along a border against the house? Most of the day this area is in shade, but at the hottest time of the day it gets a couple of h...
view the full question and answer

Is straggler daisy deer resistant from Austin
October 08, 2012 - Is straggler daisy (horseherb) deer resistant? We have lots of deer in our NW Hills, Austin neighborhood, and a lot of shade where not much will grow. Is that plant a good candidate for ground cover...
view the full question and answer

Tolerance of plants in area of Amarillo TX
March 24, 2013 - I want to know tolerance in the Amarillo area for Diospyros texana, Berberis trifoliata, and Capsicum annuum where it gets colder, is dry, and intensely hot in summer.
view the full question and answer

Will Texas kidneywood grow in dappled shade?
December 09, 2008 - Will Texas Kidneywood be successful as an understory plant in dappled shade? There is a location near the house, under a small grove of established live oaks and cedar elms, that needs an airy screen...
view the full question and answer

Privacy screen from Simpsonville SC
May 04, 2013 - My neighbor cut down his part of our shared woods so now we see his whole "outside patio area". What kinds of fast growing shade loving trees and shrubs can we plant on our property line that will c...
view the full question and answer

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