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
1 rating

Tuesday - September 07, 2010

From: Carthage, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Turf
Title: Need shade friendly native grass for lawn under pine trees in Carthage, TX.
Answered by: Marilyn Kircus

QUESTION:

My home is situated on six acres of woods in the East Texas piney woods area. Other than a few beds I have tried to plant, the yard has not been landscaped. I am trying to cover dirt and weeds in a part-sun/ part-shade area on the back and one side of the house. I do realize that I will have to improve the soil since it is mostly heavy clay left by the builders of the house. Does the Native American Seed Company's Shade-friendly Grass Mix flourish in my part of Texas? If I am going to invest the time and money on the seed, I want to be sure I do the right thing, successful and environmentally friendly. Also if I choose this seed, should I wait until spring to seed the area or can I do it in September/October?

ANSWER:

I called Native American Seed and asked about growing the shade - friendly grass mix in your area.  They said it would grow there and would make a good meadow but might not be suitable for use as a turf grass.  It needs at least two flushes of growth a year.  So you could mow it at the end of spring and again at the end of summer.  Also, if your area gets too much rain and the soil stays too moist, some of the grasses will overgrow others.  This will be especially true of Inland Sea Oats.  But if you plan to have a little prairie instead of a lawn, this mix would work well with some prairie flowers. You may have to grow something else directly under your trees, in the deepest shade or just mulch there. 

They also suggested that you use Texas bluegrass for a lawn grass because it takes cutting but stays short and may not need much mowing.  Here is a description of Poa arachnifera (Texas bluegrass) from the Native Plant Database. However, a mix of grasses is usually more successful because different ones will colonize different micro-climates within your yard.  

Another choice for you might be the Southeast Native Grass Mix from Hancock Native Seed Company.  This grass is described as good all the way from North Carolina to Florida to east Texas. You could also talk to them about using it as a lawn grass, if that is your intention.  This can also be mixed with wildflowers. 

Grass seed should be planted in the spring according to the tips for growing grass from  American Native Seeds. But you need to spend time getting rid of weeds that came with the fill dirt, getting a soil test, and either planting a cover crop such as cereal rye or just mulching heavily and then tilling the mulch in before planting in the spring.  You can find the directions for preparing a soil sample for testing and the form you need to fill out to send it in.  You can use a quart sized plastic bag and put 2-3 cups of your prepared dry sample in it, then put that in a small box.   

And from personal knowledge, I suggest that you be sure to kill/remove every plant from your area, especially Burmuda grass which may be a contaminant in the soil brought in by your builder or be coming into your yard from your neighbors.  In sun, it will outgrow almost anything .For more information consult the following:

Easy Lawns: Low Maintenance Native Grasses for Gardeners Everywhere by several authors.

 

More Turf Questions

Erosion control in lawn in Tulsa, Oklahoma
April 03, 2008 - Hello Mr. Smarty Plants! I have an erosion control question. I have a growing problem with erosion on one side of my house. The soil from the side of my house slopes down about 8" in about 3 feet to ...
view the full question and answer

Pine bark on non-native St. Augustine grass in Kingwood TX
May 12, 2010 - I had two large Pine trees cut down. In the process of cutting the trees down there is a lot of pine bark from the tree on my St Augustine grass. Will this affect the growth of my grass?
view the full question and answer

Best grass for the shade in Austin, TX.
July 01, 2015 - What is the best grass seed for shade in Austin?
view the full question and answer

Lawn grass for Erath County, TX
October 02, 2012 - We live in Erath County in TX on ranch land. We are relatively dry. Our soil is combination of clay and red soil (brought in for building pad), and sandy. We have a sloped area, about 30%, that we w...
view the full question and answer

How much shade will Thunder Turf (Habiturf) take?
March 20, 2016 - How much shade will Thunder Turf take?
view the full question and answer

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