As most warm season plants start to fade a few well-placed clumps of ornamental grass often shine this time of year. For years pampas grass was the rage. But its main drawback was size and maintenance each year. Now there are more choices of other species that can provide interesting or colorful displays in the landscape.
Also, there are now smaller cultivars of pampas plants, with nicer flower heads, that no longer require logging equipment to cut back and remove dead grass each winter. There are now many more species of colorful grasses that can be planted in our area as well. These are used for flower, seed head or foliage landscape interest. Clemson University’s HGIC Bulletin 1178, Ornamental Grasses http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/pdf/hgic1178.pdf will provide information on many species adapted to our South Carolina conditions.
Ornamental features now include plants with showy flowers that come in different colors, shapes and sizes. Many flowers and seed head can last for months, providing interesting landscape displays. Others species have interesting foliage and form that fits into entrances and are generally very tough and hardy once established.
Ornamental grasses provide unique features to the landscape such as movement each time the wind blows. There are many choices of species with a wide array of foliage, form, shape and size. Most are perennial and do not require annual replacement.
Most ornamental grasses are adapted to full sun locations and tolerate heat well. There are some choices for shade and partial shade locations. Most require well drained growing conditions but can benefit from some irrigation at times. Drip irrigation fits well with plant placement and landscape design for most plantings.
Caution: Some ornamental grasses can become invasive so check before you purchase new species for planting. Avoid those species that reproduce with quick spreading runners if you want to contain them in a small planting. Also, avoid those that produce large numbers of viable seeds each season.
Fall is a good time for planting new cultivars as it gives them time to adjust to hot sunny locations before the heat of summer arrives the next season. While most species are drought tolerant, new transplants require regular irrigation early on until they become established. Generally, most species do well with regular rainfall once established except during drought periods. Avoid heavy fertilization on most to help maintain regular but not excessive growth.
When laying out new plantings, note the mature size estimates of plants and keep them well spaced. This will reduce regular maintenance, improve plant health and avoid disease problems.
Warm season ornamental grass species require annual cut back of dead grass before new foliage appears each spring. Some require division occasionally as they grow to maintain spacing between plants so keep this in mind when laying out plant spacing. To get the full visual benefit of plants should not be overcrowded in the planting.
One last caution; since some ornamental grasses are invasive, always check before you plant.
Join local Urban Tree Expert Jimmy Walters for a program on Urban Tree management of insects and diseases in a morning indoor session and an afternoon outdoor tree examination session from 8 a.m.-noon Nov. 28 indoors at the Arts Center in Uptown, and 1-3:45 p.m. outdoors. Pesticide Credits (3). The workshop is free and space is limited. Contact Ann Barklow at 864-344-0120 or firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve space.
Goat management seminar
This seminar will be in the Edgefield Extension Office from 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 29. Cost is $75. Contact Gary Coleman, Greenwood Extension office at 864-223-3264 ext.111 for registration details.
Turf problem management
This seminar will be at the Greenwood Extension office Dec. 8, with morning and afternoon sessions. Cost is $25. Pesticide credits (2)
Contact James Hodges 864-223-3264 for details or visit 105 N. University St.
James Hodges is a Clemson Extension agent in Greenwood County. He can be reached at 864-223-3264.