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
1 rating

Thursday - December 02, 2010

From: Round Rock, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Propagation
Title: Native grass for Austin to sow in the early spring
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Stephen Scace

QUESTION:

What is the best native grass seed to plant in the Austin area? What is the best time of year to plant? I'll be planting in an area that has no real established grass.

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants is assuming that you want a lawn so we'll give our recommendations on turf grass first.

If your area is sunny (at least 6 hours per day) with caliche, clay or loam (not sand), then we would highly recommend the mixture of Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss), Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama) and Hilaria belangeri (curly-mesquite).  This is the mixture that the Wildflower Center research has shown to work best for native lawns for grass density and for keeping out weeds.  You can find seeds for sale at Native American Seed in Junction, Texas.  You might want to consider their Thunder Turf mix which includes these three native sun turf grasses.  Native American Seed has another mix, Native Sun Turfgrass, that includes just the buffalograss and the blue grama.  You can also buy each of these grasses separately.  I recommend that you read our How to Article, Native Lawns: Multi-species, that has specific instructions for establishing your native lawn with specifics on watering, mowing and feeding it.  You might also want to read Native American Seed's article, Planting Tips for Native Grasses, for more information on preparing the site and caring for your new native lawn. Sow these grasses in the early spring.

If your lawn is not sunny, there is really only one native grass that thrives in the shade, Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats). It is not a turfgrass; it grows two to four feet tall and doesn't respond well to mowing. It is lovely and holds the soil well. It is perennial, but it dies back to the ground each year. There are other possibilities for turf-like lawn in the shade—the sedges, which are very grass-like and grow well in the shade.  Here are a few:

Carex planostachys (cedar sedge) - about 6 inches, low water use, part shade

Carex texensis (Texas sedge) - 10 to 12 inches, medium water use, sun or part shade

Carex cherokeensis (Cherokee sedge) - 12 to 18 inches, medium water use, part shade

If you aren't looking for a turf lawn but just want native grasses, here are some recommendations.  Most of these will grow in sun and part shade:

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama) - State Grass of Texas, medium water use, sun or part shade 

 Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass) - medium water use, sun, part shade or shade

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem) - low water use, sun or part shade

Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass) - medium water use, sun or part shade

Andropogon gerardii (Big bluestem) - low to medium water use, sun or part shade

All of the grasses listed above are warm season grasses and should be planted in the early spring.   Seeds for sedges are not readily available so you would need to check with local nurseries for the availability of plants.  You can find nurseries in the Austin area that specialize in native plants in our National Suppliers Directory.


Bouteloua dactyloides


Bouteloua gracilis


Hilaria belangeri


Chasmanthium latifolium


Carex planostachys


Carex texensis


Carex cherokeensis


Bouteloua curtipendula


Sorghastrum nutans


Schizachyrium scoparium


Panicum virgatum


Andropogon gerardii

 

 

 

  

 

More Propagation Questions

Why do some plants resprout in Spring from Crestwood KY
December 08, 2009 - I am a 5th grade student at Crestwood Elementary School; and one of my classmates came up with an excellent question that I can not answer. Here it is: Why do some plants (like bulbs) resprout in ...
view the full question and answer

Replacing Drought-Stricken Cedars
January 16, 2012 - Hello, I live in Williamson County on a couple acres. We have several dead cedars as a result of drought; we're reluctant to cut them down because many of them provide a friendly barrier between us...
view the full question and answer

Propagation of century plants from "pups"
August 10, 2007 - I have two small century plants...about 10 inches tall...they are "pups" from an older one. one of them has three or four very small roots and the other looks like it was pulled up out of the ground...
view the full question and answer

Coursetia axillaris from cuttings from Elmendorf TX
October 31, 2013 - I have been able to propagate the Coursetia axillaris (Texas Babybonnets) from cuttings. Will the plants grown from cuttings bloom faster?
view the full question and answer

Saving seeds of western red cedar from Monroe WA
June 06, 2011 - I would like to know how to save and store seeds of western redcedar if not planning on planting them their current year.
view the full question and answer

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