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
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - May 29, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Most ecological grass to grow in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What kind of grass is most ecological to grow in a neighborhood community in Austin? Is Bermuda good? Is Buffalo good? I live in a rental house and there are some bare spots in the yard that I'd like to fill in. The yard is mostly St. Augustine, which I would never plant myself, but it came with the house. I'd appreciate your suggestions.

ANSWER:

That depends on what kind of effort you want to put in, including how long you think you'll live in that rent house, and whether your landlord is agreeable to your ideas. Beginning with Bermudagrass, it is a native of Africa (not Bermuda) and has become a highly invasive weed. See this University of California Integrated Pest Management site on Bermudagrass to get some idea of why we don't like it. It grows with aboveground stolons and belowground rhizomes and is virtually impossible to get rid of, invading flower beds, cracks in the pavement and other types of lawns with impunity. The grass presently in your lawn, St. Augustine, is really not suitable to our dry conditions and rocky soil. It is native to the West Indies and Western Africa, as you'll see in this Texas Cooperative Extension article by Richard L. Duble on St. Augustine grass. It does better in moist coastal areas, and will tolerate some shade. Both of these grasses, of course, are non-native to North America, and since the work of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the care and protection of plants native to North America, you can understand why we do not encourage planting either grass.

We are in favor of native plants because planting anything in its native area will mean it is already adapted to the conditions there, not needing excess fertilizer, watering or maintenance. So, yes, we think Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss) is a very ecologically sound alternative to the non-native grasses. If your landlord wants a pristine mowed lawn or you live in an area with neighborhood rules on lawns, you may run into some resistance on this. Read our How-To Article on Native Lawns to give you some starter ideas. Then, picking up on a suggestion from that article, how about filling in some space with a meadow garden? Yet another useful article in our How-To section is Meadow Gardening. There's a great opportunity for creativity, and you can plant at your own speed, letting things fill in as they can. As if you slowly expand outward, taking up more of the empty spaces and taking out more of the St. Augustine, you may find that you, your landlord, and your neighborhood all agree that it's a great idea.


Packera obovata

Salvia roemeriana

Bouteloua dactyloides

Phyla nodiflora

 

 

 

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Deer resistant plants for Pittsburgh PA
January 30, 2012 - What shrubs can I plant on a wet slope that gets partial sun that will help control erosion? They need to be something the deer won't eat! We have lots of deer.
view the full question and answer

Substitute for Habiturf in Fullerton, CA
March 27, 2015 - Will habiturf grow/thrive in 92835 zip code? I think Im on 10a or 10b hardiness. I have clay soil. Thanks
view the full question and answer

Native grass to replace St. Augustine in Houston
July 18, 2009 - I read your answer to the question on the Houston Chronicle's website in relation to watering St. Augustine grass. You referred to St. Augustine as non-native, but from what I can gather St. Augusti...
view the full question and answer

Overwintering Juncus spiralis in a Container in PA
November 06, 2014 - I have been growing a Juncus 'Spiralis' in a self-watering container on my zone 7 patio in Pennsylvania happily all summer. I have read that this plant is native and should survive outdoors over the...
view the full question and answer

Native grasses as low-water option for ranch yard
March 19, 2007 - We have a weekend ranch in LLano Texas and are looking for a grass to plant in the front yard. (approx 3/4 acre) The house is very small and cute but not a real big fancy house. We do have a fence aro...
view the full question and answer

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