With turf removal and the installation of water-wise plantings at an all-time high, it is pertinent to understand the maintenance and needs of your new landscape. A popular palette that is being widely used throughout San Diego County and can be a bit misunderstood are Ornamental Grasses. With ornamental grasses, there are times of dormancy and extensive trimming that some may not find appealing. In order to take advantage of these plants, it is important to understand how they grow and what they need to show off their beautiful textures. Here is a quick and easy breakdown on everything you need to know for your ornamental grasses.
COOL SEASON GRASSES
Cool season grasses look their best when temperatures are cooler, remain semi-evergreen through the winter and begin their growth in early spring time. Unfortunately, if not watered sufficiently through hot summer months or drought, the grasses will go dormant. For those that stay semi-evergreen through the winter, it is important to only remove the brown leaves or frost damaged areas in spring. Cool season grasses includes Fescue, Blue Oat Grasses and Tufted Hair Grass.
WARM SEASON GRASSES
Warm season grasses look their best in the summer heat and drought. These grasses will begin to go dormant in the fall when temperatures are cool and need to be trimmed to 4-6” in the spring. After being cut back, they won’t have any new growth until the soil and temperatures become warm again. Warm season grasses include Fountain Grass, Miscanthus sp. And Pampas Grass.
Fertilizer + Soil
Keeping your grasses fertilized just before the growing season in spring is very important. Just like any fertilizer, it requires more water for it to work properly and a low-release is recommended. If possible, use fertigation! As mentioned in our It’s Time to Fertilize blog, fertigation will be your best application to reduce the wasted extra water and labor that is associated with hand fertilization.
Watering + Mulch
During the initial establishment period, grasses require more water. This period can last roughly six months to a year depending on the growing rate of the grass. Once it is established, most grasses require little supplemental water. Application of mulch is also a great way to preserve moisture in the soil while creating a healthy soil profile. This supplement water can vary depending on the grass species. Some great low water grasses are: Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’), Blue Oatgrass (Helictotrichon sempervirens) ‘Elijah Blue’ Grass (Festuca glauca), Oriental Fountain Grass (Pennisetum orientale) and Muhlenbergia rigens.
Propagation + Trimming
As mentioned, different grasses require trimming at different times of the year to keep them looking healthy. With this, each grass also required propagation and thinning out. Cool season grasses will need to be divided more frequently than warm season grasses. Overtime, grasses will slowly die out in the center and will need to be divided. The best time to divide grasses is in the early spring before they begin growing again. Keeping the foliage through the winter months will help insulate the crown of the plant keeping it alive. Unlike cutting back the entire plant, the flower of each grass can be cut back anytime throughout the year when the flower become unsightly.
With very little love and care, ornamental grasses can bring you movement and beautiful fluoresces to your garden.
If you are looking to convert your landscape to a water-wise palate using ornamental grasses, please contact Heaviland today or complete the web form on the right side of this page.