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

Thursday - June 16, 2011

From: New York, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: drought-resistant turf grasses for New York City
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

Hi - I work at the Smithsonian in New York City and we have a very large lawn that is frequently used in the summer for programming. It gets very beat up. I read an article in teh New York Times about your research on drought-resistant native grass research - can you recommend a blend for the Northeast that I could suggest our gardener try? I'm also our sustainability manager, so I'd love to suggest something that would not only solve a big problem for us but also be kind to the environment. Many thanks!

ANSWER:

Drought-testing mixtures of native grasses is a time-consuming process, and even the one project dealing with grasses of the Southwest is not yet completed at the Lady Bird Wildflower Center.  Mr. Smarty Plants is unaware of a similar project for the New York City area.  Some of the fescues have been popular there since they require relatively little watering.  I find that some recent lawns used a mix of tall fescue and Poa pratensis (Kentucky bluegrass). Advice on choosing a turf grass for New York can be found at this web site.  In theory some of the newer cold-tolerant strains of bermuda grass or Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss) might survive, but I have not seen evidence of that.

If your lawns are shady in places you might consider a sedge.  The species most suited for your area is Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)Carex texensis (Texas sedge) is also native to New York, but I have not seen examples of its use in your area.

 

From the Image Gallery


Pennsylvania sedge
Carex pensylvanica

Texas sedge
Carex texensis

Buffalograss
Bouteloua dactyloides

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Ornamental bunch grasses to grow under live oak
June 25, 2007 - I love live oak trees and have one in the back yard that is growing nicely. I don't know if it's the shade or the leaf and acorn droppings that won't allow the grass to grow underneath it. Around...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a Narrow, Dry, Shaded Site in Georgia
April 03, 2014 - I am writing from Valdosta, GA. Could you please suggest three perennial shrubs and/or plants that flower at different times of the spring and summer? Also ones that can be planted in a 2 ft. wide s...
view the full question and answer

Planting creeping phlox for a groundcover
June 13, 2014 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I live in Southwestern PA (zip code 15065). I have a small slope on my property that is hard for me to mow. I would like to cover it with creeping phlox, which I saw on t...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for burned acreage in Bastrop, Texas
October 31, 2011 - The fire took 2/3 of the trees on my half acre in Bastrop County. It was mostly wild. What do I plant for ground cover? Do I plant native grass seed in fall? I want to keep it native as possible. ...
view the full question and answer

Native grasses for traffic area in Austin
February 11, 2009 - What time of the year is best to plant grass seed in Central Texas? My lawn is in bad shape due to the drought and my dogs. I am considering replanting with tall fescue, do you have any comments or ...
view the full question and answer

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