The Q&A Archives: Grass Recommendations

Question: I live in the southern Sierras at about 4,800 ft elevation. We have dry, up to 90 degree summers, and variable winter weather down to 10 degrees. We are interested in planting some sort of lawn or meadow-like ground cover. Some of the areas we wish to cover will have accessable water and other areas will need to depend on natural moisture. Do you have any recommendations?

Answer: Lawns are high maintenance plantings, requiring frequent watering and mowing to keep them performing well. Instead of grass for the area you describe, why not plant a hardy groundcover? You didn't mention whether the site is sunny or shady, so here's a list of suitable plants for both sunny and shady areas: Antigonon leptopus (coral vine), Baccharis sarothroides (desert broom) Calylophus hartwegii (sundrops), Dalea greggii (trailing indigo bush), Mascagnia macroptera (yellow orchid vine), Merremia aurea (yellow morning glory), and Zinnia grandiflora. All are native to the southwest. For pictures and descriptions of these plants, consult Sunset Western Garden Book (available in most book stores and libraries).

Your new plants will require regular watering while they're becoming established. Once they've made it through their first summer they should be able to survive on just natural rainfall. Good luck with your landscape!

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