Here at Gardening Know How we get lots of questions, and our goal is to provide answers to those inquiries to the best of our ability. Ornamental grass plants are popular in the garden as well as our list of inquiries. These easy-to-grow plants fit into many types of landscapes from xeriscape to riparian. The following information includes the 10 most commonly asked questions about ornamental grasses.
There are various methods of propagating ornamental grass. Some ornamental grasses are divided, others come true from seed and still others make babies or offsets. These offshoots are tied to the mother plant lightly by small roots and once large enough can be cut away from the parent. Take care that each offshoot has some nice, healthy roots before planting them. Use clean, sharp instruments to make the cuts to prevent disease and damage.
Some of the prettiest ornamental grasses perform well in shade. Try Korean feather reed grass for an impactful statement or some sweet little liriope for groundcover excellence. Others that do well in shade might include Japanese forest grass, northern sea oats, sweet flag, sedge, and mondo grass.
Ornamental grasses are stars of the landscape because they come in a range of sizes, colors, light requirements and soil preferences. You absolutely can grow them in containers with ease. Success depends on using the correct soil, providing the right light and moisture levels and a container size that can accommodate their growth. The little ones are the easiest but even a giant pampas can be grown in a large pot.
Most varieties of fountain grass are hardy to USDA zones 8 to 11, although a few can survive into zone 4. In northern climates, it is best to use them in containers and bring them indoors for winter. Cut back the foliage in late winter to early spring to allow for new blades and overall best appearance.
Ornamental grasses are classed as cool or warm season, or evergreen. Warm season grasses turn brown as weather gets colder and can be trimmed back at any time. Cool season grasses may spend winter looking just beautiful but benefit from trimming in early spring. Evergreen grasses need no trimming but comb through the blades with your fingers to remove dead leaves and improve plant appearance.
Divide warm season grasses in spring to mid-summer, cool season plants in spring or early fall and evergreen types in spring. Always use good tools and sanitation practices to prevent damage and disease transfer.
This is a common condition in grasses and perennial plants. It is an indicator that it is time to divide the grass. Usually, the center stems die and fail to produce new shoots every 4 to 5 years, and the clump needs to be dug up and cut into at least half. It could also be due to moisture retention at the center of the clump. Plant the grass a bit high on a bed of soil mixed with sand for extra drainage.
One of the many wonderful things about ornamental grasses is that they rarely need fertilizing. Fountain grass may benefit from a 10-10-10 food in spring. Alternatively, use organic amendments like leaf mold, compost, or mushroom manure. These will break down naturally and gradually, gently feeding the roots of the grass. Container plants will need feeding more frequently than those in the ground.
Not all ornamental grasses have an obvious inflorescence. However, if your species is one that gets those brilliant plumes and fails to produce, it may be the site conditions. Too much or too little sun is often the culprit. Additionally, if you cut back the grass at the wrong time of the year, you may have lopped off the developing plumes. The plant may also be too young to flower or receive too much nitrogen. Ensure optimal growing conditions and care for beautiful plumes.
Excess nitrogen might be the cause of flopping grass blades. It might also be due to the plant needing division. If the plant is too large, divide it every 3 to 4 years. Make sure the plant has enough sunlight and cut it back at the appropriate time annually unless it is an evergreen variety.
We all have questions now and then, whether long-time gardeners or those just starting out. So if you have a gardening question, get a gardening answer. We’re always here to help.