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Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental Grasses

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Larry Sagers Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved

Splendor of Fall Color and Ornamental Grasses With Larry Sagers

Walk the garden and enjoy the change of color from summer to fall. Fee: $8.00 Season passholders free. Register for program sections online or call the Institute at 801-768-7443, 801-768-4971 or toll-free 1-888-672-6040 (select Education option) to register.

Ornamental grasses are increasing in popularity as gardeners look for lower care, higher impact plants. They usually require less care throughout the growing season. Grasses traditionally used for lawns require frequent mowing, watering, and pest control.

Ornamental grasses are allowed to grow to their normal size and shape. They range in height from 6 inches to 14 feet. They are grown for their attractive foliage, texture, color, distinctive plant form, or for showy flowers or seeds, which make landscape accents for dried arrangements.

Of the hundreds of species of grasses, some 70 are grown as ornamental in our area. Most are winter hardy but some are tender perennial grasses that are grown as annuals in this area.

Grasses can be used as groundcovers or specimen plants and grow well around ponds, streams, perennial borders, rock gardens, or naturalized areas. They require few if any pest control.

Annual grasses are grown from seed each year and can be started indoors or the seed can be sown directly into the garden. Our growing season makes it advantageous to get a longer show of beauty by starting them as transplants.

All annual grasses prefer full sun and require adequate moisture and fertility for good growth. Perennial grasses are usually purchased as plants and prefer full sun although some tolerate partial shade.

Spacing is important. Plant shorter grasses one foot apart. Plants four feet tall need to be planted two to three feet apart. Place larger plants even further apart or they will lose their attractive form.

Most grasses are most attractive in the late fall. Cut them back each spring to remove dead remove dead stems and create vigorous growth. Perennial grasses are long lived and do not require frequent divisions.

Divide plants that show growth around the edges and not in the center. Make the divisions in late winter or early spring while the plants are still dormant. Those with uniform new growth can be left in place for a longer period.

Grasses grown in partial shade or in very fertile locations may require staking. When selecting ornamental grasses, choose varieties carefully as some may have invasive root systems or produce seeds that become weeds in the garden. Some also produce pollen that aggravates allergies. Careful attention to the size, form, and variety avoids problems and create new and exciting dimensions in landscape plants.

If the only grass you have ever grown is turfgrass that requires mowing, watering, irrigation, and constant attention, expand your garden horizons. Ornamental grasses can help do that.

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