Question of the Week #2: June 1, 2017

“Neil, I am going to start my lawn over completely. My St. Augustine looks really blotchy. Someone told me zoysia would be a good choice. Will it tolerate 3 hours of sunlight?”

A WBAP listener in Arlington actually called that question to my radio program this past Sunday morning somewhere around 9 a.m. You can hear it there on the podcast.

She was asking about the Texas A&M variety of zoysia, a very good one at that called Palisades, but I had to tell her that St. Augustine needs 5 or 6 hours of direct sunlight daily to grow and thrive, and that Palisades would need an hour or two more. No grass will survive in the kind of shade that she has.

Photo: This area was totally St. Augustine, but shade forced me to change. Photo was taken in winter, but it shows the framework of this garden’s design. Click image for larger view.

I explained to her that my wife and I live in a pecan forest, and what used to be (40 years ago) a bermuda lawn, later evolved into all St. Augustine, and more recently became totally planted to shade-tolerant groundcovers and shrubs (no turfgrass at all – there’s just too much shade).

My caller seemed at peace with my conversation. I told her it wasn’t that we would have to give up on landscaping in the shade, but that we’d just have to refocus our plans and adjust the plants that we use.


Continued Below


If you face similar challenges wherever you live in Texas, your local independent retail nursery person will be well versed in the solutions. This is the question he or she, as I, will have answered more than any other question: “What plants will do best in the shade?”

Photo: Any planting in the Sperry landscape is sure to feature hollies. Also mondograss in lieu of turf. Our deck and our view are surrounded by our favorite plants. Click image for larger view.

Photo: Where I can’t grow St. Augustine due to excessive shade, I plant mondograss. I do not mow it, but it still gives me the light, grass-like texture of turf. It’s easy to remove tree leaves from it since it has no runners. Click image for larger view.

Some of my favorites…
Groundcovers to replace turf in the shade:
• Mondograss (regular, not the slow-growing dwarf type; no – you don’t mow it.)
• Liriope (green and variegated)
• Asian jasmine
• Purple wintercreeper euonymus
• Wood ferns and other hardy ferns

Shrubs that do well in the shade:
• All types of hollies (there are dozens)
• Aucubas
• Cleyeras
• Nandinas
• Oakleaf hydrangeas (eastern half of state)
• Mophead hydrangeas (in acidic soils)
• Fatsias
• Azaleas and camellias (morning sun, afternoon shade)

Small trees to grow beneath larger shade trees
• Dogwoods (acidic soils)
• Japanese maples
• Yaupon hollies
• Warren’s Red possumhaw hollies
• Redbuds
• Mexican plum

Posted by Neil Sperry
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