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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.

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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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Thursday - October 12, 2006

From: Mansfield, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Native alternatives to St. Augustine for under an Arizona Ash
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live in Mansfield, TX. We have a large Arizona Ash tree in our back yard. No grass will grow under it. We are thinking of laying sod (St. Augustine) there. Is this a good solution and if so, when is the best time of year to do this? Thanks!

ANSWER:

St. Augustine (Stenotaphrum secundatum) might grow under your Arizona ash tree, but it will require frequent watering and mowing. Also, it is affected by several insect pests and diseases. Spring, after the danger of frost, is the best time to lay the sod so that it has warmer and lengthening growing days to establish itself before the heat of summer.

You might like to consider some less water-thirsty plants that will do well in the shade. An alternative ornamental grass that does well in the shade is Inland sea oats. The seed heads are attractive in flower arrangements. Another grass with ornamental seed heads that will grow in the shade is Canada wild rye (Elymus canadensis). Sedges, such as Meadow Sedge (Carex perdentata) and Texas Sedge (Carex texensis), do well in dry shade and require little or no mowing. You can read about using sedges for lawns in the article, "Sedge Lawns for Every Landscape".

Other possibilites are non-grass ground covers such as Pigeon Berry (Rivina humilis), Texas Frogfruit, (Phyla nodiflora) Golden groundsel (Packera obovata), or White Avens (Geum canadense).

 

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