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Perennial Grasses: What You Need to Know


From turf to tall, August is all about grasses. This month, our blog will feature posts on every type of grass, including lawn care, lawn seed and of course, gorgeous perennial grasses. In this post, we will cover the basics of landscaping, including care and maintenance.  In August, these plants really start to show off. Watch for wispy plumes, changing fall color and a variety of textures throughout late summer into fall.

The world of perennial grasses is deep and varied. From tall to short, soft to prickly, there is a color and size for every need. Why consider planting them in your landscape. Here's just a few great reasons.

Why Plant Perennial Grasses

  • They mimic our natural landscape. Native grasses have evolved to survive the very climate and soil conditions we have here in Northern Illinois.
  • These low maintenance ornamental plants are easy to grow and maintain. Some varieties would prefer to be divided every 3-5 years, but most require only a once-per-year trim.
  • They add sound and movement to the garden as the wind blows through the blades.
  • They provide fall color and winter interest.
  • They are great for erosion and storm water control.
  • They are deer and rabbit resistant.
  • They offer a contrasting texture when planted beside shrubs and perennials.
Now that we've covered why we recommend using these versatile plants in the landscape, let's dig a little deeper into one the reasons listed above. These easy going plumes make a sophisticated landscape design simple to plant and care for.

Care & Maintenance of Perennial Grasses

Fertilizing Perennial Grasses

You do not need to feed your ornamental grasses.  In fact, over feeding can lead to floppiness.

Watering Basics

Thoroughly soak all newly planted grasses two to three times per week.  Unless moist soil is specified under Special Uses, these grasses will require NO supplemental water once established.

How to Prune Perennial Grass

Grasses should not be cut down before winter. They are attractive when left standing and the foliage helps to insulate and protect the crown of the plant. Cut back the foliage to 2-4” in March-Early April. Removing the dead foliage allows the sun to penetrate and warm up the crown of the plant.  Leaving the dead foliage can delay growth and cause the center of the plant to die out. An aggressive pruning will reduce the occurrence of the “donut” effect where the center of the grass mound dies out and new growth only occurs from the outer ring of a living plant. Watch Heather's instructional video below.



When and How to Divide Perennial Grasses

As a grass grows it increases in diameter.  Eventually the center of the plant may become shaded, weak, and then die out.  You can control the size and increase the vigor of larger ornamental grasses by dividing them once every 3-5 years.  In early spring before new growth appears, prune the grass according to the instructions above and then dig up the entire clump.  Divide the clump into 3-4 sections with a spade.  Space and replant each of the sections.   

Companion Planting

Many grasses do not begin to grow until late spring.  Surrounding them with daffodil bulbs will provide early spring coverage and interest in that space while the grasses are still dormant.  

Ready to see these beautiful plants in person? Stop by our Garden Center 7 days a week this month and peruse our huge selection of perennials, including ornamental grasses for sun and shade.

Our Design On The Fly service is designed for homeowners that need a littl extra help choosing plants and designing perennial gardens that thrive. Learn more by clicking on the image to the right.


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