Ornamental grasses are popular additions to the home landscape

Published: Thursday, May 1, 2014 at 01:47 PM.

Another native grass that makes an attractive addition to the landscape is panic grass, also known as switch grass. This grass prefers full sun, and tolerates moist or dry soil. Many varieties are available. ‘Cloud Nine’ is one of the tallest, reaching six feet in height, while ‘Prairie Fire’ is among the shortest, topping out at three to four feet and boasting burgundy tipped foliage.

For those living on the beach, sea oats can make a wonderful addition to an area. This plant grows two to four feet in height, and bears large conspicuous drooping seed heads that turn ivory in mid-summer.

Establishment and maintenance

Just as with any other plant, proper soil preparation and maintenance are vital for the establishment of ornamental grasses. Most grasses will need to be watered every three or four days in the first few weeks of establishment. If you have really sandy soil, you will need to water more frequently. After the first month you can cut back on watering to once a week or only when the plants appear water stressed.

Ornamental grasses are adaptable to poor soils. A light application of slow release or organic fertilizer in spring will help grasses establish but overfertilizing can lead to excessive growth, resulting in floppy grasses. Grasses growing in too much shade will also tend to be floppy so be sure to plant ornamental grasses in areas that receive at least six hours of direct sun each day. After establishment, ornamental grasses are very low maintenance. Grasses should be cut back within 6-8 inches above the ground in late winter to ensure a healthy flush of growth in the spring.

Learn more!

For more information on ornamental grasses and other landscape plants, visit the NC Extension plants database at ces.ncsu.edu. You can also submit gardening questions via the site’s ‘Ask an Expert’ link, or contact your local Cooperative Extension center by phone: If you live in Pender County, call 910-259-1238; in New Hanover County, call 910-798-7660; in Brunswick County call 910-253-2610.

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