I typically tout the attributes of ornamental grasses in the fall. That is when many of them bloom and are at their peak of ornamentation. Only a few of the cool-season grasses can be planted then. Now is a good time to be planting most of them.
K-State Research and Extension has been trialing many grasses in both Wichita and Olathe. While most grasses do well, some have been put on the highly recommended list to grow in Kansas. A publication titled “Ornamental Grasses” was released in April. It indicates the varieties that did best and how to grow these types of grasses. Stop-by the local Extension office for a copy or on the website ksre.ksu.edu.
The Riley County Extension Master Gardeners have put in a small collection of some of these grasses at the Riley County Office Building. The grasses are labeled. These grasses were divisions of the test plants and vary in maturity. It will be fun to watch them fill in the bed over the coming years.
Grasses are often the right plant for the right place. All of the ones on the suggested list do best in full sun. They don’t need any fertilizer or excess water. The only pest I’ve ever noticed was a grasshopper or two.
One of the grasses in our display is the Prairie Dropseed. It is the smallest grass to make the list. I’ve had a clump of three plants for six or seven years. Many of the grasses grow quickly and need divided frequently. The plants in my landscape haven’t needed it yet. Divide the grasses when the center starts to die out.
Prairie Dropseed has thin leaves and an airy seed head. A quick snip with the pruners removes the foliage. There can be a lot of fuel in the dry leaves of ornamental grasses. Take that characteristic in to account when designing them into your landscape. That fall and winter look is often desirable but it can go up in smoke.
Ornamental grasses fill many uses in the landscape. Tall ones can be used as a screen or backdrop. Even a gentle breeze makes them sway creating a soothing motion. Many have the characteristic to be a single specimen in a bed. The best asset these plants have is their ability to survive no matter what comes at them.