Monday, October 11, 2010


RtoL: Panicum 'Shenandoah', Miscanthus 'Malepartus', Calamagrostis 'Brachytricha' and Calamagrostis 'Avalanche'

The incredible rise in popularity of ornamental grasses has been no surprise.  They offer forms and textures that are hard to accomplish when just using other herbaceous or woody plants.  Grasses provide interest during the fall and winter season as the rest of the garden is winding down. 

Most of the grasses we grow in our gardens are warm-season grasses.  They prefer warm temperatures, and often come up fairly late.  I've found the best time to plant them is early June.  Planting earlier is ok, but there isn't much advantage since they don't grow much when the temps are cooler.  Planting late in the fall can be even more problematic, the cooler temperatures in fall slows the grasses down and signals dormancy.  They don't have enough time to establish a root system before winter, and often frost-heave out of the ground or die altogether.  This is especially true for grasses such as Miscanthus sinensis, which often times when planted too late in the season can be pulled out with no effort in the spring after they've died. 

Some grasses are cool-season grasses and can be planted in early spring or fall.  The various Calamagrostis varieties fall under this group, and represent the most popular of the cool-season grasses.  Festuca, Chasmanthium, Koelaria, Molina, and some Carex (I know, they're sedges not grasses) species also fall under this group.

I don't have a favorite, but I do like some better than others.  Calamagrostis 'Brachytricha', Panicum 'Northwind', Chasmanthium latifolium, Hakonechloa macra (all varieties), Sporobolus heterolepis, Schizachyrium scoparium,  Koeleria glauca 'Blue Sprite', Miscanthus sinensis, and Andropogon gerardii.

Calamagrostis 'Brachytricha'

Panicum 'Northwind'

Miscanthus 'Silberfeder'

Chasmanthium 'River Mist'


  1. Great post...I agree...grasses are where it's at! So far, I've had good luck with fall-planted grasses...although I do agree that spring seems best...they seem to be MUCH bigger the following year when spring-planted.

  2. Hmmm, bad news on the fall planting of miscanthus sinensis. This fall I dug up three very large clumps and transplanted them into 10 good sized chunks. FIngers crossed because they are under consistent snow cover from Nov hopefully through march and won't have opportunity for frost heave.

    In years past I've transplanted in early spring, and they usually spend the whole year sulking, I suppose growing a good root system. I thought fall planting would give them a head start, to have a bit more vertical growth the following summer. We'll see . . . .


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