Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

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 - September 14, 2012

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Ground cover under Juniper for San Antonio
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

I have a shaded area under juniper in the Hill Country of Texas that has many sprouts from the tree. We have to weed whack it to keep them under control. What ground cover could I use to enhance that area that could stand periodic whacking to the ground along with the sprouts? Plants I'm thinking might do: cedar sedge, cedar sage, ruellia nudiflora, silver pony foot, artemesia ludoviciana. Would any of these work? Others?

ANSWER:

Your choices are generally good.  Mr Smarty Plants got lucky while researching your question.  It turns out that the plant record for Carex planostachys (Cedar sedge) actually contains most of the answer to your question.

It states:  "Carex planostachys (Cedar sedge) is named for the plants it most frequently grows among and under: cedars, a.k.a. junipers (Juniperus species).  It is one of many plants evolved to grow in the rich, loose, fast-draining soil created by juniper leaf fall.  For central Texas, herb-layer companion plants for the shade would be Cedar Sage (Salvia roemeriana), Missouri Violet (Viola missouriensis), Violet Ruellia (Ruellia nudiflora), Drummonds Ruellia (Ruellia drummondiana), Baby Blue Eyes (Nemophila phacelioides), and Straggler Daisy (Calyptocarpus vialis)."
 As per weed-whacking, Cedar Sedge can take occasional mowing and light foot traffic as can Violet Ruella.  Missouri Violet and Drummonds Ruellia are both slightly taller [1-3 ft.]; these might not look too well when taken to the ground.  Missouri Violet, Baby Blue Eyes and Straggler Daisy are all short ground covers which will look well soon after they are taken down.  The advice for Calyptocarpus vialis (Straggler daisy) actually recommends these all to be planted together as companion plants. 

  I'd have concern that two of your suggestions won't work as well.   Dichondra argentea (Silver ponyfoot) looks properly low and has an interesting appearance, but prefers sun or partial shade and is considered good for large open areas.  Silver Ponyfoot may not tolerate the shade of your junipers well.  Similarly,  Artemisia ludoviciana (Louisiana artemisia) is also recommended for open sunny areas.  Although it is noted as tolerating mowing, as it grows to 1.5 to 3 ft. high, it may be seriously set back and scraggly from weed-whacking to the ground.

  As you care for your ground-cover, you may want to consider one piece of advice Mr Smarty Plants often gives to people hiding Oak shoots - - If you choose a ground cover that is low to the ground and not too different from the shoots, try mowing high rather than weed-whacking to the ground.  That will trim the shoots off while not particularly affecting the ground cover.  The ground cover will be still pretty fresh and good looking while the shoots are trimmed off.  This is a strategy of hiding the mowed shoots rather than blasting everything with the weed-whacker. 

 

From the Image Gallery


Cedar sedge
Carex planostachys

Cedar sage
Salvia roemeriana

Missouri violet
Viola missouriensis

Drummond's ruellia
Ruellia drummondiana

Texas baby blue eyes
Nemophila phacelioides


More Shade Tolerant Questions

Plants for oak shade from Whitney TX
December 24, 2012 - I live in Whitney, Texas and have a number of beautiful Live Oak trees in a portion of my yard providing deep shade. Asian Jasmine grows in about 5 ft circle around them and then nothing! I have walk ...
view the full question and answer

Low Ground Cover for Steep, Shaded PA Site
February 17, 2014 - I am located in Downingtown, PA, right on the border between Zone 6 and 7. Please provide a recommendation of a native ground cover for the following conditions: steep slope (greater than 45%), full s...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for shady area in north Texas
July 29, 2013 - I'm looking for a ground cover for a mostly shady area where St. Augustine won't grow. I don't want the ground cover to overtake my established St. Augustine in the rest of the yard. The area is un...
view the full question and answer

Grass for dense shade in Simpsonville SC
May 12, 2010 - We live in Simpsonville, SC. Our back yard leads back into very dense woods. It is extremely shady, virtually no direct sun for any length of time. We have a hard time growing grass here. What type of...
view the full question and answer

An evergreen, deer-resistant shrub for Memphis
July 24, 2013 - I need an evergreen, deep to partial shade, deer resistant shrub or tree. Does such a plant exist?
view the full question and answer

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