By Lynn Barber, Hillsborough County Extension
Ornamental grasses are a great addition to any landscape. They add texture, color, form and interest. These grasses need the same types of maintenance as other landscape plants (water, fertilizer, pruning, division), but generally require much less. As with all types of plants, consider the site conditions of your landscape, which include sun, shade, mature size (height and spread) for placement purposes, soil pH, soil moisture and soil texture. Other considerations when selecting plant material include annual or perennial, evergreen or deciduous, warm or cool season, growth form (creeping or clumping), foliage color, time of flowering, winter characteristics and invasive potential. The two ornamental grasses below are clumping and thrive in central Florida.
Muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris, a native plant, reaches a height of three to four ft. and spread of two to three ft. It prefers full sun, can tolerate extreme drought and flooding and has moderate salt tolerance and works well in wetland sites and beachfront landscapes. Any type of soil texture is acceptable, from clay loam to sandy loam, from sand to sandy clay. Muhly grass has narrow foliage and produces pink/purple fall flowers. It is used as a border, accent, in mass plantings or as cut flowers.
Fakahatchee grass, Tripsacum dactyloides, another native, reaches a height and spread of 4 to 6 ft. It prefers full sun, does well in partial shade/partial sun and tolerates flooding and standing water. It produces cream/yellow/ orange/red flowers from spring through summer and is a larval food plant for the Byssus Skipper butterfly.
These ornamental grasses are easy to divide, share with your friends and neighbors, or create more color in your own landscape. Once established, irrigation may not be needed at all. You may consider annual fertilization, but these plants generally obtain enough nutrients from the soil. You may want to submit a soil sample for pH testing which is performed at our office for $3 per sample.
For assistance with horticultural questions, call 744-5519 or visit UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County, 5339 County Rd. 579 in Seffner.