Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support 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

Tuesday - June 21, 2011

From: San Marcos, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Grass for shady area
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I need to find a grass that can grow in a shady area, with some sun. Drought resistant and preferably native to the area. Would like to find a sod if possible. I know it's not a great time to plant now, but is there anything you can suggest for my area in San Marcos. Thanks!

ANSWER:

There are no native turf grasses that grow well in mostly shade.  If you area gets 6 or more hours of sun each day, then the Native Lawns: Multi-species of Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss), Bouteloua gracilis (Blue grama) and Hilaria belangeri (Curly mesquite grass) or buffalograss alone (Native Lawns: Buffalograss) would be your choice.   With much less than 6 hours of sun per day, however, these grasses aren't going to grow very well at all.  Sedges are probably your best bet for the area if you are looking for a lawn-like look.  Here is an article, Sedge Lawns for Every Landscape, by John Greenlee.  The native sedges for your area that do well in the shade and are evergreen and drought tolerant are:

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

Carex planostachys (Cedar sedge)

Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge)

Carex retroflexa (Reflexed sedge) and here are photos and more information.

If you can tolerate taller grasses, there are several native ones that are attractive and do well in shade or partial shade:

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

Muhlenbergia schreberi (Nimblewill)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye or canada wild rye)

There are a couple of low groundcovers that are semi-evergreen and will tolerate light to moderate foot traffic that will also grow in partial shade or shade:

Calyptocarpus vialis (Straggler daisy)

Phyla nodiflora (Texas frogfruit)

You are absolutely correct that this is a very bad time (because of the drought and extreme heat) to try to get grasses, sedges or groundcovers started either by seed, by sod, or by plants.   Whatever you plant is going to require lots of water to establish it and maintain it unless we start getting some significant rainfall soon.

You can look for nurseries that specialize in native plants in your area by searching in our National Suppliers Directory.

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas sedge
Carex texensis

Cedar sedge
Carex planostachys

Eastern woodland sedge
Carex blanda

Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Nimblewill
Muhlenbergia schreberi

Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

Canada wild rye
Elymus canadensis



Horseherb
Calyptocarpus vialis



Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Lawn for a Shady & Wet area in Austin, TX
July 22, 2015 - We have a drainage area that has appeared in our back yard since the neighbors’ homes were built. When we get heavy rains (like this year) all their drainage flows into our back yard and forms a river...
view the full question and answer

Native grasses to accompany buffalograss in shade
May 01, 2008 - What grass goes with buffalo for shade/partial shade?
view the full question and answer

Native moss to fill in between flagstones
April 21, 2008 - I live in Houston and have a long, narrow flagstone path that runs along the east side of the house. I am looking for a native moss that can fill in between the flagstones and will tolerate morning su...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for a Texas dog run
November 02, 2015 - What ground cover do you recommend for a residential dog run located under a pergola in high limestone soil at White Rock Lake in Dallas, Texas?
view the full question and answer

Native shade trees for Austin
May 15, 2009 - I am building a new home that does not have any trees close by-- I want to have several shade trees to increase the efficiency of my home. What are your suggestions for an easy care, fast-growing, an...
view the full question and answer

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