Native Grass Species for specific uses and conditions
As described in Parts One and Two of this series, native grasses are easy to grow, add visual interest to the garden, and have tremendous ecosystem benefit. Until recently, the word ‘grass’ conjured up an image of a tidily maintained lawn or golf course. We’ve come to learn that grasses have many other uses in the landscape.
There are two types of grass: warm season grasses and cool season grasses. Cool season grasses stay green year round, and include all the (non-native) turf grasses. Warm season grasses go dormant in the winter. They add visual and architectural interest to the landscape in their golden, dormant state.
Some native grasses will tolerate mowing and can be kept short. You might want to mow them so they set off your perennial beds (much as turf grass would) or for light foot traffic.
It is important to understand your site conditions so you can select the right grass for your site. Here are some useful lists taken from “Native Ferns, Moss & Grasses” by William Cullina of the New England WildFlower Society. It is part of a series of books on native plants. We highly recommend any of the books in this series.
Warm Season Lawn Grasses Tolerant of Mowing
- Bouteloua species (Grama grass)
Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Blue Stem)
Grasses and Sedges (and a rush) for Dry or Sandy Soil in Sun
- Andropogon virginicus (Broom Sedge)
- Eragrostis spectability (Purple Love Grass)
- Panicum virgatum (Switch Grass) salt tolerant
- Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Blue Stem) salt tolerant
- Sporobolus species (Prairie Dropseed)
Grasses and Sedges for Wet Soils in Sun or Part Shade
- Andropogon glomeratus (Bushy bluestem)
- Juncus sp. (Rush)
Grasses and sedges for Woodland Gardens, Part Sun to Shade
- Carex flaccosperma (Thin fruit sedge)
- Carex laxiculmis (Spreading Sedge)
- Carex plantaginea (Plantain Sedge)
- Carex platyphylla (Silver Sedge)
- Elymus hystrix (Bottlebrush grass)
Grasses and Sedges (and one rush) for Sunny Perennial Gardens or Mass Planting
- Carex appalachia (Appalachian Sedge)
- Carex grayi (Gray’s Sedge)
- Carex muskingumensis (Palm Sedge)
- Chasmanthium latifolium (Northern Sea Oats)
- Elymus hystrix (Bottle Brush Grass)
- Juncus effusus (Soft rush )
- Panicum virgatum (Switch Grass)
- Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Blue Stem)
- Sorghastrum nutans (Indian Grass)
- Sporobolus species (Dropseed)
Grasses and Sedges for Dry Shade (just one)
- Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania Sedge)
For information on specific grass species, visit this post.