How do you grow ornamental grasses?

ornamental grasses - 'Giant Grass' - courtesy laudu - CC-BY

ornamental grasses - 'Giant Grass' - courtesy laudu - CC-BY

The growing of ornamental grasses is becoming more popular, especially as water restrictions and drought bring their case against our water loving flower gardens. It wasn’t too long ago that many gardeners would shy from these ‘weedy’ grasses and opt for flowers and ornamental perennials.

Ornamental grasses have had some bad publicity, and it’s not entirely unjustified. In some parts of Australia, the United Kingdom and the US, several species reside on the noxious weed lists and have been banned from being grown in home gardens as they are incredible propagators and spread out of control.

Most ornamental grasses take full sun and prefer sandy soils over loams and clay. They don’t need large amounts of rainfall or watering to live and can easily survive extended periods of drought. They do well in xeriscape gardens. Don’t grow ornamental grasses along with high water usage plants as either the grass will struggle with excessive dampness or the water needy will struggle with not enough.

Instructions for the feeding of ornamental grasses are really very simple – don’t do it.  Most grasses prefer to be grown on the ‘lean side.’ They are sturdier without the addition of extra nutrients. You may think that fertilizers, such as are used on lawns, would also be good for ornamental grasses. However, have you noticed how quickly the lawn grows after fertilizing? Tall growing ornamental grasses will shoot for the sky and with such rapid growth will be unable to hold themselves up with the result being, floppy plants.

Ornamental grasses, whether plugs or field-grown clumps, need to be well watered their first year. The soil was broken up when you dug the hole, so it will dry out faster. Mulch can be used the first year to help retain moisture. But, do not mulch right to the crown of the plant. This can cause the crown to rot because of constant dampness. It is very important we plant our ornamental grasses so that the crown of the plant is level with the soil’s surface. Some grasses are quite sensitive to being planted too deep. The crown rots and then the plant dies.

Following these basics should get us off to a good start.

For more information about growing ornamental grasses

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