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
4 ratings

Monday - June 18, 2012

From: Leander, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Xeriscapes, Drought Tolerant, Groundcovers, Shade Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Ground cover under live oaks
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

I have some areas under Live Oak trees (maybe 200 sq. ft.)that remain bare, in spite of trying Habiturf. Soil is dry, poor and shallow. Can you suggest a living ground cover that would not require major rework of the soil?

ANSWER:

I have had the same experience as you, except my bare ground is under deciduous oaks, Quercus texana (Nuttall oak).  I am experimenting with several native plants that will survive drought.  I'm having pretty good luck with Calyptocarpus vialis (Straggler daisy)Carex planostachys (Cedar sedge)Salvia lyrata (Lyreleaf sage), and Paspalum setaceum (Thin paspalum).  Some of the other sedges, such as Carex texensis (Texas sedge) and Carex amphibola (Creek sedge) might do well, although they might need slightly more water than Habiturf.  These are all mowable at a height of about four inches. The first four species are common around suburban Central Texas, and I simply transplanted some from other spots in my yard.  I also tried Tridens muticus (Slim tridens), but it seems too coarse for a lawn.  If a taller grass will fit in, try Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats), which grows to about two feet in height and does very well in shade.

Images of some of my suggested species are shown below.

 

From the Image Gallery


Horseherb
Calyptocarpus vialis

Cedar sedge
Carex planostachys

Lyreleaf sage
Salvia lyrata

Thin paspalum
Paspalum setaceum

Slim tridens
Tridens muticus

Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium

More Xeriscapes Questions

Problem garden strip in Austin
May 22, 2014 - Currently I live in the west half of a duplex. There is a small strip of dirt about two feet wide between the wall and the sidewalk in the backyard. It faces west, meaning it only gets sunlight duri...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for flowers in rocky area in Ohio
March 07, 2008 - We have just built 4 raised beds on a slope in our backyard on Scioto River. The site is an old quarry so rocky soil below our raised beds & gets full sun majority of day from about 11am-7pm summer ti...
view the full question and answer

Replacement for shade grass in El Paso TX
April 05, 2013 - We currently have a Honey Mesquite tree with thinning bermuda grass underneath in our front yard. I suspect that the filtered shade is killing the bermuda. I was thinking of planting Buffalo Grass, or...
view the full question and answer

Native plant landscaping
March 14, 2004 - How does native plant landscaping differ from xeriscaping?
view the full question and answer

Surface tree roots hurting grass in Houston
March 21, 2013 - We have 2 mature Arizona Ash trees in our yard (30-40'). One of them is in a sunnier location and has developed an extensive network of surface roots (up to 1 to 1 1/2" Dia.) between the tree and th...
view the full question and answer

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