Rent Shop 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
3 ratings

Saturday - March 22, 2008

From: Garland, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Groundcovers, Shade Tolerant, Turf
Title: Pros and cons of Hydrocotyl bonariensis as lawn replacement
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Want to convert lawn TO dollar weed! My Garland TX yard has become so shady over the years that I have a hard time with grass. A few years ago I noticed dollar weed in the grass which seemed to create an 'under carpet'. I have left it, and it seems to be taking over the shady parts of my yard - and I like it, but the plant gets only bad press. It doesn't seem to need watering or mowing, it stays lower than the lawn mower's blades, the round leaves are really pleasant...like violet leaves... its easy to walk on, it grows between the flag stone that I am increasingly laying where grass no longer grows, AND its a NATIVE plant! Can you tell me anything about the plant - how thickly will it grow? Is there any place to GET seeds to help increase the thickness of the coverage? How is it propagated? via roots or seeds? Why is it so despised?

ANSWER:

Well, guess what? Hydrocotyle bonariensis (largeleaf pennywort), which is probably the one you have, seems like a nice, natural lawn replacement where there is too much shade and moisture. In fact, as we looked through references to this plant, it seemed that many, if not most, of the sites knocking dollarweed were sponsored by herbicide manufacturers. Go to this site emilycompost and get some positive feedback. If you call it "pennywort", which is another common name, you'll find there is a lot less negative comment about it. Another native plant, Dichondra recurvata (oakwoods ponysfoot), looks very similar but is not related. Dichondra is widely used, especially in California, as a lawn plant. It's very ironic that you are probably replacing one of two invasive, non-native grasses-St. Augustine and Bermuda-with a native, attractive, low maintenance ground cover.

In terms of propagation, since Hydrocotyle bonariensis (largeleaf pennywort) is a native plant which volunteered to live in your lawn, I think you might just let Nature take its course. It is a perennial, with stems creeping and rooting at the nodes; it spreads by rhizomes. It's going to do better in the shady environment and around your flagstones than a competing grass. It does bloom, from April to September, and probably will seed out from that. If you can convince your husband that it reduces his mowing, it's evergreen, needs less water and is going to be there anyway, you probably will have no further problem. If it chooses to get into flower beds, you'll probably want to remove it, but it's certainly less invasive in that respect than the St. Augustine and Bermuda.


Dichondra recurvata

Hydrocotyle bonariensis

 

 

More Compost and Mulch Questions

Conditions for growing Anacacho Orchid in Smithville TX
January 24, 2011 - What conditions (soil type, sun/shade, understory? etc.) to grow a healthy Anacacho Orchid tree? And what is the best size tree to plant?
view the full question and answer

Chlorosis in yaupon from San Angelo TX
April 08, 2012 - Thank you for your information on the yaupon holly. We just finished clearing out the mulch and the red ground cover that popped up. I will quit watering it as much as the rest of the plants. Our y...
view the full question and answer

Limp leaves on Texas purple sage in Magnolia TX
July 22, 2010 - Recently planted Texas purple sage, some of it looks healthy and has new blooms, but a few of the plants have limp leaves and are thin at the bottom. I read the article on cotton root rot, but am not ...
view the full question and answer

Shelf life of hawthorn leaves in Florissant, MO
April 30, 2009 - I have a bag of hawthorn leaves that were harvested in 2007. Do you know if they're still effective? How long is the shelf life of hawthorn leaves? Thank you for your assistance.
view the full question and answer

Destructive landscape crews in The Woodlands TX
October 20, 2012 - Hi. We need help. We recently moved to a house where landscape crews have been blowing away the leaf litter from the front yard for many years. The underbrush was also cleared long ago. The result...
view the full question and answer

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