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 - April 05, 2013

From: El Paso, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Xeriscapes, Groundcovers, Shade Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like, Trees
Title: Replacement for shade grass in El Paso TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

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 better yet the Thunder Turf, to reduce our water consumption. I cannot find a good answer but are my suspicions correct in that the Buffalo Grass will not grow good under the mesquite either? Do you have any good suggestions for grass under this tree? Will another type of groundcover such as horseherb be the only solution?

ANSWER:

Your Prosopis glandulosa (Honey mesquite) may not make a deep shade, but the shade and the tree roots will interfere with anything planted beneath it. You are correct, bermudagrass is not tolerant of shade; however, it is also non-native to North America and one of the worst invasive weeds of the South, so you will forgive us if we do not mourn the demise of the bermudagrass. You are also correct that Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss) requires full sun, which we consider to be 6 hours or more of sun a day. Thunder Turf is a branded native seed mix from Native American Seeds. It also requires full sun. Researchers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center have developed a native grass mix Habiturf, which needs about 5 hours a day of sun.

More and more, we are encouraging gardeners to move away from grass or formal lawn, especially in drought-stricken Texas, and more especially, shady lawns. Here is a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer that might point you in some good directions. From another Mr. Smarty Plants answer:

"We would suggest you consider putting something else beneath those trees and perhaps embark on a process of xeriscaping. From eartheasy, here is an excellent article on Xeriscape. Obviously, you do not have to do every single thing suggested for xeriscaping, but you can start small and work your way up. Without knowing exactly what else is going on in your garden, we would suggest covering the offending roots and bare ground with a nice layer of mulch. Please read our How-To Article Under Cover with Mulch.

A good quality shredded bark mulch will make a nice cool surface for the ground, sheltering the tree roots from heat and the sun, discouraging weeds from sprouting and preserving moisture in the soil. It will tend to scatter or decompose, sinking into the soil and making it healthier, over time, but it's an easy fix to spread some more on the area. And it doesn't have to be mowed. We had one letter from a homeowner this week that said they were so over grass, and we feel, in this hot, dry climate, that may be a very good idea."

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Buffalograss
Bouteloua dactyloides

Honey mesquite
Prosopis glandulosa

More Xeriscapes Questions

Drought-Tolerant Plants for Arizona
July 16, 2015 - Slowly turning south-facing lawn to drought-tolerant plantings with gravel paths. Mature Ponderosa and several blue spruce and junipers surround area. Grass area I'm converting with a few larger tr...
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

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

Tired of mowing
February 09, 2007 - Please help, my husband got tired of mowing the lawn (bermuda grass) and recently decided to do a desert landscape by himself. Without researching, he mowed the dead grass and covered the whole area w...
view the full question and answer

Restoring fire damage in Bastrop TX
November 03, 2011 - I live in the Bastrop State Park area. We were severely affected by the wildfire and as we are trying to rebuild our home, we are being very aware of the particularities of the recovery process. We lo...
view the full question and answer

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