Good grasses?

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

I have been dipping my toe in the grassy water.
I planted 2 Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' last year. I might take them out, enough of the grass blades break and fall over midway up (like lodging of corn) that they just do not look like the nice photos I see. They got 6 feet tall (supposed to be 5 feet). Just too messy for me.
I thought a grass would be fool-proof. Do I need a peony ring? More water? Less water?
I planted some kind of Miscanthus. It looked exactly like common orchard grass, and it too lodged. I dug it out.
I have a Pampas Grass, a 'short' variety called 'Ivory Feathers' supposed to be 5 feet tall, flowers to 10 feet. It is 7 feet tall. The blooms get going awful late, and the old dead grass is ugly. I am afraid to light it on fire in the spring. Maybe a hedge trimmer?
I planted a bunch of Japanese Blood Grass last year Imperata cylindrica 'Red Baron'. Hardy to zone 5. Every one died over the winter.
I think my Japanese Forest Grass probably needs more water, but it survives.
I have good luck with blue Oat Grass, Carex 'Ice Dance' and 'Frosted Curls'.

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

I inherited several clumps of miscanthus when I first moved into my house 20 yrs ago.
I liked them, nice and full, maybe 5ft tall and equally wide.
But the spring time chore of cutting them back was annoying.
Hedge trimmer definitely works the best, in my experience.
They eventually all got shaded out as my trees grew.
Grasses still are a big element in my yard, but shade-tolerant grasses.
Hakonechloa lines my driveway below. I love it - really graceful.
I have many large clumps elsewhere, mainly Aureola & All Gold.
They grow best with more light - my clump of All Gold in AM sun, PM shade is a monster.
2nd pic is All Gold in a planting of other shade-tolerant plants.
#3 is my imperata cylindrical Rubra - this is in the fall showing it's nice fall coloration.
I don't know why yours would have all died - mine is certainly vigorous.
Mine is in pretty rich soil in half-sun. I've heard it can be invasive in some areas.
My other grasses are all small shade-tolerant guys:
#4 is carex siderosticha Island Brocade planted around some rocks. I have Lemon Zest also,
which is solid yellow.
#5 acorus gramineus minimus aureus fills in really nicely around rocks/tree trunks, etc.

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Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

My latest grass favorite is carex oshimensis Everillo.
It's a golden graceful grass, maybe 18" tall.
The only picture I could find is from last year.
This clump is about 3 yrs old. You can see I planted another one just beyond it 2 yrs ago.
It is a really dark area of my woodland right along the driveway.
This grass really lights the area up, so last week I just planted 4 more.
Hopefully it will look really nice in a couple years.

Finally, I also have a bunch of mondo grass.
I mainly have the dwarf ophiopogon japonicus nana, which fills in really nicely in part shade.
But I've recently started experimenting with some of the other taller types,
as well as the black mondo (Nigrescens) and some white varieties (Okina).
I think Okina was reclassified as a liriope species.
Here's a picture of some of the dwarf mondo intermingling with Nigrescens & Okina.
It has filled in nicely since this picture, so it doesn't show the effect so well...
Ah, well, you get the idea...

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(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

I love the way you've used the grasses in your shady areas. They really do light up the dark.

This spring I got some Hakonechloa All Gold in pots from my late mother's deck in Southampton, LI, which I re-potted and used along my entrance paths. I'm hoping they are as happy in my pots as they were in hers for several years.

I've just started experimenting with grasses in the last couple of years. There are two big old clumps of Miscanthus in a sunny area. I've added daylilies and some smaller grasses-Pennnisetums Karley Rose and Hameln- to the mix, which is working well. Now I've just bought Miscanthus Morning Light to extend the back line.

I love your Imperata cylindrica Rubra, what a gorgeous color! Is that specifically for shade? Or will it take more light? My house faces north, and there are mature trees along the west border, so I have a lot of direct early morning sun but then it's gone for the rest of the day.

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Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

Imperata isn't happiest in shade, it's just shade-tolerant. It will easily take more sun.
I have to rein it in every year or two, or it wants to run over it's neighbors.
I love your hakonechloa siting - should look great as it enlarges and spills over.
I wish I had more sunny areas - I love the look of Karl Foerster, but no place to put it.

(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

I just looked it up. Apparently, although Rubra is sterile and much less aggressive, its relatives are hugely invasive. I would put it near a diffused stream that becomes a wetland meadow in the summer. There are Cattails, Lobelia Cardinalis, Boneset, Lythrum and who knows what else already in there. I'd be afraid even Rubra would get loose and spread for miles and miles. My good-citizen conscience cringes, lol.

But I see there are lots of other brightly colored grasses to choose from. I also just read that grasses prefer to be planted in the spring, fall planting may be unsuccessful. Have you found that to be the case?

Pic 1 is the newly cleared area.

2 . The meadow, before it becomes a meadow

3,4. Sadly, I don't have a good picture of the meadow in full bloom. These two are from other years.

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Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

You can check w/ me in spring re: success of fall planting.
I just planted 4 more carex Everillo's last weekend. We'll see.

(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

I guess I'll find out for myself as well. I just got deliveries from. Lazy S and Santa Rosa- M Morning Light and a few more P. Karley Rose. They'll be going in this weekend.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Hi Pam.

I put in a million miscanthus in fall years ago. The majority of the plants in my yard went in then, because they were on sale. The trick is to keep them decently watered. If you do, your success will be similar to mine, which was in excess of 90%.


(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

Thanks, Donna. Just in time, today is the big day.

Pics are the reclaimed area, after removing the running sunflower.

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Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)


I sometimes find lots of don't do this, don't do that instructions. The assumption seems to be (and, OK, it's true) that people plant things and never water them. But you are a serious gardener, and you will do what you need to do.

It must be exciting. I LOVE it when plants come!

Please keep us posted.

(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

I'm right in the middle of my project, and have a dilemma. My empty space is roughly 3' x 6'.
How closely is your group of 3 planted?

I don't mind- in fact, would prefer- if they grow in together. I don't need to fill the 6' length, just the width. The path is for my use, not general traffic, and presumably I'll be smart enough to avoid the sharp blades. Still, there has to be room to get a wheelbarrow through, even if just barely.

Am I making sense?


And yes, I plant with lots of water, and follow up regularly as long as needed :-)

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I actually put them on a triangle - that how space critical I am.

I put them about 30 inches apart so that they would grow together. They are supposedly 2- 4 feet in width. I love the "wall" effect in which you can barely tell where one starts and the next one ends.

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(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

Thanks, I love your photos. The grasses look great. That's what I'd like, but I don't have the width. My triangle is much smaller, more like 20" centers. I really want the space to fill in, 36" wide. One clump is skimpy, but 3 are probably too many. So I guess I'll stick with my Plan, do 3 and worry about it again when the whole space fills in. Maybe then I'll try to move the path- not easy, there are some huge rocks there.

I finished at sundown, will have to take pictures tomorrow. Or next week...

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I'm really looking forward to seeing them.

You only have to worry about their sharpness when you cut them back. I just wear gloves, use string and a hedge trimmer on the bigger ones. One thing is to make sure your face doesn't come into contact with them. It's just about the only miscanthus that does that, but hey, I couldn't resist doing it again.

I think your plan is terrific.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Hey Pam, as I posted on the other forum where I wrote about Morning Light and how mine didn't bloom for five years - my first year Morning Lights, all three of them, have started to bloom. Maybe it's the slight zone difference that I perceive here. But whatever thee reason, I think that you can look forward to the same thing!

Even MORE of a reason to grow this great grass.

Happy to be wrong about it's natural tendencies. It is a tad warmer here.


(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

How exciting! I love when plants surprise me like that!

I see I never posted the pic of the grasses planted. Funny thing happened... I got them all in, looking adorable like new little plants do, then took a trip to a local nursery for supplies. Of course I just had to wander around a little, and guess what was sitting on the sale table?! Morning Light, 40% off, a nice full pot. Just had to come home with me, lol. So now there are 4 :-)

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Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

VERY overexposed but I think you can see theblooms. All three have them.

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(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

Oh, they look great! Maybe my new big one will do it next year. Do they always bloom this late? Or is it because they're new this year?

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Morning Light has always bloomed in October in my zone 5a garden - once it started blooming. I think that it is the very last miscanthus to bloom. My graziella, strictus, Huron Sunrise had all bloomed by the end of September. Silberfeder and Bluttenwunder would bloom in July. When I look back at my notes and October pictures, ML always bloomed in mid-October. It's the end of the blooming "show". But what a show.

(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

Something to look forward to, for sure. I have a couple of other super late bloomers- Aster Jindai, for one. It's nice to see new color when even the fall foliage has faded.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I think that you have seen these before, but:

September 26, 2009 (pic 1)

October 13, 2008 (pic 2 )

October 23, 2008 (pic 3)

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Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Very nice. I will just have to keep trying with the grasses, and figure out what they need in my yard with it's non-prairie soil. Yours do not flop I see. This winter I will try cutting off with hedge trimmer and burning the stubble.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

One of the primary keys to a non-flop is avoiding rich soil. My original soil was clay over hardpan. One mild fertilization at the beginning of April with a 10-10-10 liquid was all I ever did. And my advice came from the owner of the nursery where I bought most of them.

And check out the contrast. Strictus does not flop. It's the one (actually two on the left). Silberfeder (on the right) flops somewhat for everyone. Morning Light does not flop, as you can see above.

Gracillimus (2nd picture) is also a non-flopper. It was the first significant grass and the one in old japanese prints. It's an incredibly desirable grass, and I had more of it than anything else. The third pic is gracillimus 11 years after installation. I had 8 of them, and they never died our or flopped, the fall color is spectacular and completely reliable. And the blades won't cut. It also matures quickly. And no seeding.

If I were going to start again Gracillimus is probably where I would begin. I was a rank beginner when a landscaper installed it for me, and my love affair with it never ended.

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