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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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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

Horseherb
Calyptocarpus vialis

Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

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