Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Suppport the plant database you love!

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

Friday - March 18, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Groundcovers
Title: Ground Cover for Austin
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

What are some ground cover or low growing shrubs that will do well in afternoon sun only in the 78750 zip code?

ANSWER:

  That’s a perfect job for the recommended species application offered on this website.  We don’t get quite as specific as 78750, but you will find recommended species for Central Texas and you can be pretty sure they will be good choices.  One thing you can recognise is that 78750 is to the north side of the county, which is an area that is part of the Edwards Plateau / Hill Country rather than the east side of Travis County which more closely resembles the Blackland prairie.  You should lean towards natives that also thrive in the counties to the northwest.  All the plants I mention below fit that consideration and in fact have pretty wide distribution throughout Texas.

   When I did this search, I further narrowed the search to General Appearance:“herb”, Light Requirement: “Partial Shade 2-6 hours”, and Height: "0-1 feet".  That returned 8 lovely flowers, including Callirhoe involucrata (Winecup)Glandularia bipinnatifida var. bipinnatifida (Prairie verbena), and Salvia engelmannii (Engelmann's sage), all of which will grow well.


Salvia engelmannii

      
Callirhoe involucrata
          Glandularia bipinnatifida var. bipinnatifida

 

  Realizing that this doesn’t give you year-around ground cover, you can do the same search, but for “Grass/Grass-like” habits, then the recommendation is for Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss) or Hilaria belangeri var. belangeri (Curly-mesquite).  These require full sun, so they might not do quite so well depending on how serious a requirement you have for “afternoon sun only”.  If this general direction appeals, I know that some of the Wildflower Center suppliers such as Native American Seed offer varieties that have been optimised for partial shade.

              
Bouteloua dactyloides
           Hilaria belangeri var. belangeri

  If you are looking for slightly taller natives, the 1-3 ft category has 5 recommended species including Chrysactinia mexicana (Damianita) and Penstemon baccharifolius (Rock penstemon).  The 3-6 foot selection has 33 recommended species.  I like Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (Flame acanthus) and Lantana urticoides (Texas lantana).

         
Chrysactinia mexicana
      Penstemon baccharifolius    Anisacanthus quadrifidus       Lantana urticoides

  You have many choices, but if you go with the recommended species, you will have a lovely native garden. 

 

More Groundcovers Questions

Plants for narrow strip between sidewalk and fence
May 01, 2008 - I have a strip of land about 5 inches wide and 30 feet long -- between the fence and the sidewalk -- that I would like to plant something that would look nice and wouldn't require the weedeater every...
view the full question and answer

Groundcovers for hillside in Northern California
November 19, 2012 - I have read numerous posts on here, but I have not found my exact situation. I live in Northern California. I am looking for some type of ground cover to grow on a hillside. Directly above the hillsid...
view the full question and answer

Low groundcover for Possum Kingdom
March 02, 2011 - I am seeking a very low ground cover (advised so snakes and rats won't take cover), that is drought resistant and grows on a rocky steep incline to the lake in full afternoon/evening sun at Possum ...
view the full question and answer

Reducing Allergens in Yards and Gardens
January 31, 2012 - What are some allergen-free native plants to Central Texas that thrive in the soil and can survive in the weather?
view the full question and answer

Low maintenance, native plants for sloping drive near Philadelphia
October 20, 2004 - My cabin is located in the northwest suburbs of Philadelphia. I am looking for low maintenance plants that would look good on the sides of a driveway that slopes upward. This is a potential project fo...
view the full question and answer

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