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February 10, 2006

Ornamental Grass Makes a Great Addition to the Landscape

University of Illinois Extension

Blue Fescue Ornamental grasses have gained a lot of popularity over the last several years. If your landscape doesn't include these low maintenance plants, consider adding a specimen or two this year.

In southern Illinois, ornamental grasses are best planted in the spring of the year. That way, the plants get established before the heat of summer arrives. Another advantage of spring planting is that garden centers, nurseries and mail order companies usually have a wide variety of plants available at this time of year.

Planting ornamental grass is a relatively easy process. Follow the same steps as planting other perennials in the garden. Avoid planting the crown of the plant too deep. Always try to match the original soil line of the plant.

Water newly planted grasses immediately after planting. Then, place a 2- or 3-inch layer of mulch around the plants. Mulching will help maintain a cool soil temperature and preserve moisture throughout the summer. Mulch also provides some winter protection for the plants.

Keep in mind that newly planted grasses are susceptible to drying out. On a hot summer day, young grass that has not been properly watered will dry out in a very short period of time.

Before you plant ornamental grasses in the landscape, determine how far apart they need to be. Spacing is a matter of personal taste. Planting grasses close together will give a massing effect. Planting grasses farther apart may give a very spacious look to the planting. A rule of thumb is to plant grasses as far apart as their mature height. A common mistake is to not realize how wide the grass clumps will be four or five years down the road.

For more information on ornamental grasses, visit the Hort Corner web site at

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