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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 - June 16, 2010

From: Carthage, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Native grasses for East Texas that require no mowing or watering
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

What native grass can I grow in deep East Texas that would require no supplemental watering and no mowing?

ANSWER:

Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss) is the perfect grass to meet your criteria—once established it takes no supplemental watering and only rare, occasional mowing. Unfortunately, it is not a grass that one thinks of as growing in deep East Texas.  However, the USDA Plants Database distribution map shows it occurring in Marion County just north of Panola County and also in Caddo Parrish in Louisiana just across the state line from Panola County.  One thing I do know about East Texas is that the soil can be very sandy there.  If the soil is sandy where you live, buffalograss will NOT do well.  Also, if the site you want to grow it on is very shady, it will not do well. You can read our article, Native Lawns: Buffalograss, to learn more about it.  You can also read about the research that the Wildflower Center has done on Native Lawns. Unfortunately, neither of the other two short native grasses, Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama) and Hilaria belangeri (curly-mesquite), are native to East Texas.

There are no other native turf grasses that meet your criteria but there are several grass-like sedges that have been used as substitutes for grass lawns.  They are evergreen, require little or no mowing, some will grow in both sun and shade, and some will survive without supplemental watering.   The ones listed in the article linked above that are native to Texas are Carex perdentata (sand sedge) and Carex texensis (Texas sedge).

If you are just looking for plants to cover your lawn area, we can recommend several that require little water, do not grow tall and/or can be occasionally mowed to maintain your desired height. 

Here are several ground covers recommended by the Wasowskis in Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region that do well in the clay soils of the Dallas region:

Artemisia ludoviciana (white sagebrush) is evergreen (maybe evergray is a better descriptor) grows 1 to 3 feet but can be mowed.

Calyptocarpus vialis (straggler daisy) grows less than 1 foot high.  It goes dormant in cold winters.

Geum canadense (white avens) grows from 4 inches to over 3 feet, but can be mowed.  It is evergreen if watered in summer.

Phyla nodiflora (turkey tangle fogfruit) grows 3 to 4 inches high and is evergreen to dormant in winter.

Rivina humilis (rougeplant) grows 1 to 1.5 feet and is evergreen to dormant in winter.

Salvia lyrata (lyreleaf sage) grows 4 to 18 inches or more, but can be mowed and is evergreen if watered in summer.

Packera obovata (roundleaf ragwort) grows 3 inches to 2 feet but can be mowed and is evergreen.

Here are photos of the above plants from our Image Gallery:


Bouteloua dactyloides

Bouteloua dactyloides

Carex perdentata

Carex texensis

 

 


Artemisia ludoviciana

Calyptocarpus vialis

Calyptocarpus vialis

Geum canadense

Phyla nodiflora

Rivina humilis

Salvia lyrata

Packera obovata
 

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