Ornamental Grasses — In Search Of No Maintenance

Ornamental Grasses — In Search Of No Maintenance

I have long contended that people who purchase our plants don’t really care what the plants are, they only care what they do. They don’t buy red begonias because they are begonias, but because they are red–and if we are smart enough, we sell the best red begonia out there. Similarly cannas are popular because of their bold colorful look, not because they are cannas. Margarita sweet potato provides the eye catching element, hostas are popular because they work in the shade, etc., etc.

One of the most significant “what they do” elements is low maintenance. It always has been important and is becoming even more so as the population ages and less time is spent in the garden. Perennials have provided many low-maintenance items and shrubs are ready to burst from the greenhouse onto the landscape if they can be properly positioned at retail. However, if one asks any landscaper about the best group of plants for low maintenance, ornamental grasses will usually be the answer.

Here are my top three grasses for good looks, good flowering, fall color and availability. There are dozens more, but for landscape and new home use, or for people trying to downsize their garden or landscape, these should be on availability lists if perennials are grown. 

Switch Grass

Panicum: To me, the number one up and comer. Easy to grow in containers, and the best of the native grasses to combine upright habit, good flowering and a diversity of cultivars. These can be placed in a garden or landscape in three or three dozen and left alone. Panicum can also serve as a substitute for non-native grasses, especially those that reseed where they are not supposed to. For people working with state and municipal planners (i.e. reclamation, watershed management or ecosystem management), the panicums will become more and more important.

Armitage favorite cultivars: I love ‘Dallas Blue’ if used properly (looks wonderful in mixed containers), ‘Northwind’ for its strong upright growth and ‘Heavy Metal’ for its fall haystack look. 

Feather Reed Grass

Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’: If ever a plant provided long season impact, it is ‘Karl Foerster,’ named for the renowned German nurseryman. Plants are easily available, have a sentinel-like habit, bear dozens of flower stems, start flowering in early summer and remain handsome until they are cut back in the spring. There are a few other choices of calamagrostis, but ‘Karl Foerster’ is still the best by far. 

Eula Grass

Miscanthus: Every one who grows perennials is aware of miscanthus grass, and there is little that I can tell you that has not already been said. It has been around for so many years, one would think it would have had its day. Not a chance–the sheer numbers of cultivars won’t let landscapers forget about it. Short, tall, variegated, striped, spectacular flowers and nail-tough constitution will keep this grass out there for years to come. There had been some loud talk about miscanthus being under the scrutiny of native plant groups and appearing on invasive plants lists in a few states, and that may still be a problem, but it is only the species and a few early flowering cultivars that are causing some problems.

Armitage favorite cultivars: Too many to name but I still think old-fashioned ‘Gracillimus’ is tough to beat for its flower colors and good habit, ‘Huron Sentinel’ for overall good habit and ‘Purpurescens’ for outstanding fall color.

Two other great grasses: Fountain grass, pennisetum, should be considered by anyone in the grass-use business. This group includes annual forms (‘Jester,’ ‘Purple Majesty,’ ‘Prince,’ ‘Princess’) and tough perennials (‘Cassian’ and ‘Hameln’).

Muhly grass: Muhlenbergia is a spectacular pink-flowering grass, however only hardy to Zone 7. But where it can be grown, it is a traffic stopper.

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...

August 23, 2016

Kick Spring Sales Up A Notch With 18 New Plant Introductions For 2017

It’s time to look forward to the spring season and what plants will get your business off to the right start. These 18 new cultivars have all the traits of good breeding — uniform habits, bold colors, showy blooms, good vigor, and excellent branching.

Read More

August 23, 2016

Gardens Alive! Parent Company Buys Zelenka Farms

  Zelenka Farms, which has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, says LM Farms, which owns Gardens Alive!, has purchased the company and all of its assets. BFN Operations LLC and its affiliated entities, d/b/a Zelenka Farms, operated one of the largest wholesale nurseries in the U.S. Its products include shrubs, trees, perennials, roses, and groundcovers. The owners of Gardens Alive! have successfully purchased several other companies from bankruptcy and are experienced nursery managers. Niles Kinerk, Chairman of LM Farms, stated that “the opportunity to purchase Zelenka Farms assets and to continue the turnaround that is well underway is exactly the kind of opportunity that we look for. We understand the efforts of the management team led by Eric Ek and others have been successful, and we will support the management team in the coming months and years.” Zelenka Farms operates its six facilities across the key growing regions in the […]

Read More
Coreopsis-UpTickCream-19793-DarwinPerennials

August 20, 2016

Growing Tips On Coreopsis UpTick Series From John Wilson At Seville Farms

Editor’s Note: In this new feature, the Greenhouse Grower varieties team will choose one noteworthy variety each month we think is worth bringing to your attention. Then we’ll share growers’ and breeders’ perspectives on the best ways to produce it successfully at your operation. This month we focus on the hardy Coreopsis UpTick series, winner of Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Industry’s Choice Medal of Excellence for Breeding. Growing Tips From John Wilson, Seville Farms When asked about producing Coreopsis UpTick, John Wilson says he doesn’t have much to say because it was so easy to grow. Wilson, a Corporate Grower for Seville Farms, says based on the new series’ strong performance during the trialing he has done so far, the nursery ordered a large quantity of the plants for future growing. “If breeders were looking to come up with something that says ‘wow,’ they have done it with the UpTick Series,” […]

Read More
Latest Stories

August 23, 2016

Kick Spring Sales Up A Notch With 18 New Plant Introduc…

It’s time to look forward to the spring season and what plants will get your business off to the right start. These 18 new cultivars have all the traits of good breeding — uniform habits, bold colors, showy blooms, good vigor, and excellent branching.

Read More

August 23, 2016

Gardens Alive! Parent Company Buys Zelenka Farms

  Zelenka Farms, which has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, says LM Farms, which owns Gardens Alive!, has purchased the company and all of its assets. BFN Operations LLC and its affiliated entities, d/b/a Zelenka Farms, operated one of the largest wholesale nurseries in the U.S. Its products include shrubs, trees, perennials, roses, and groundcovers. The owners of Gardens Alive! have successfully purchased several other companies from bankruptcy and are experienced nursery managers. Niles Kinerk, Chairman of LM Farms, stated that “the opportunity to purchase Zelenka Farms assets and to continue the turnaround that is well underway is exactly the kind of opportunity that we look for. We understand the efforts of the management team led by Eric Ek and others have been successful, and we will support the management team in the coming months and years.” Zelenka Farms operates its six facilities across the key growing regions in the […]

Read More
Coreopsis-UpTickCream-19793-DarwinPerennials

August 20, 2016

Growing Tips On Coreopsis UpTick Series From John Wilso…

Editor’s Note: In this new feature, the Greenhouse Grower varieties team will choose one noteworthy variety each month we think is worth bringing to your attention. Then we’ll share growers’ and breeders’ perspectives on the best ways to produce it successfully at your operation. This month we focus on the hardy Coreopsis UpTick series, winner of Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Industry’s Choice Medal of Excellence for Breeding. Growing Tips From John Wilson, Seville Farms When asked about producing Coreopsis UpTick, John Wilson says he doesn’t have much to say because it was so easy to grow. Wilson, a Corporate Grower for Seville Farms, says based on the new series’ strong performance during the trialing he has done so far, the nursery ordered a large quantity of the plants for future growing. “If breeders were looking to come up with something that says ‘wow,’ they have done it with the UpTick Series,” […]

Read More
Eucomis arrangement from Golden State Bulb

August 19, 2016

What’s New With Blooming Potted Plants

From exotic orchids and lilies to flashy red cyclamen and jaunty gerberas, new blooming potted plants come in every shape, size, and color.

Read More
Craspedia Golf Ball Beauty (Danziger)

August 19, 2016

Learn How Unconventional Plants Can Be Hidden Gems

According to Kelly Norris, plant breeding inspired by consumer motivations and interests restores our connection with consumers thirsty for out-of-the-ordinary plants.

Read More
Petunia 'Moonstruck' (2015 Welby Gardens Field Trials)

August 9, 2016

Welby Gardens Names Top Selections From Its Trial Garde…

Welby Gardens, an exclusive grower of Hardy Boy Plants, tested more than 900 varieties this year in its field and container trials. Find out which varieties were the cream of the crop.

Read More

August 6, 2016

Growing Tips On Petunia ‘Night Sky’ From Da…

Production tips for Petunia ‘Night Sky’ from Dan Chaney, Vice President of Production, at Ivy Acres.

Read More
Janeen Wright

August 5, 2016

Deliver Plant Performance As Promised

It would be ludicrous to promise more than you can deliver. But you can deliver more than you promise to your greenhouse customers.

Read More
OSU 2016 In-Ground trials

August 2, 2016

Ohio State University 2016 Plant Trials Offer Real-Time…

The Ohio State University (OSU) displayed more than 500 cultivars for evaluation this year at the Chadwick Arboretum and Learning Gardens in Columbus, OH. Several Cultivate'16 attendees took the opportunity to wander the trial grounds and evaluate in-ground entries and those in sun and shade containers and hanging baskets.

Read More
Bellis Speedster (Benary)

August 2, 2016

How Fall Can Be About More Than Pansies

Allan Armitage suggests a few notable plants for the fall shoulder, fall sales, and spring shoulder seasons.

Read More
Petunia 'Amore Queen of Hearts' from Danziger

August 1, 2016

Danziger Targets Future Growth With Recent Management C…

The changes will provide a foundation of growth, creativity, and innovation, notes Micha Danziger, who will now serve as chairman of the Board of Directors.

Read More
Griffin 2017 Seed and Plant catalog

July 31, 2016

Griffin 2017 Plant Catalog Now Available In Print And D…

The print catalog features more than 280 new varieties, while the digital edition has several bonus resources.

Read More
Westhoff-Florist Holland combos

July 30, 2016

Pair New Spring Crops With Fresh Ideas For Increased Sa…

There are plenty of exciting, new spring crops to consider incorporating into your crop selection. What will set your operation apart is how creative you are about what plants you select, and how you promote them.

Read More
Pleasant View Gardens Savor Edibles

July 22, 2016

Pleasant View Gardens Targets Millennials With Savor Ed…

Taking something as ubiquitous as vegetables and herbs and giving it a fresh new look is no easy task, but Pleasant View Gardens took on the challenge with extensive research and creative marketing.

Read More
Dummen New Columbus Office

July 21, 2016

Dümmen Orange Opens New North American Headquarters In …

The new office, which officially opened during Cultivate’16, supports the company’s vision to be integrated into a vibrant and inspiring community, and provides a bright, modern workspace for its approximately 30 local employees.

Read More
Pollen Free Lisianthus

July 20, 2016

Sakata Seed Develops World’s First Pollen-Free Lisianth…

With no stamen to produce pollen, the new Lisianthus varieties have improved flower durability and the benefit of no scattered pollen that can cause staining of flowers and machines.

Read More

July 19, 2016

17 New Vegetable Intros For Greenhouse Production

New varieties of edibles introduced at 2016 California Spring Trials offer something for every type of gardener, from the beginning do-it-yourselfer to the hardcore, heirloom-only type. Check out some of the new varieties we saw at Spring Trials this year that will be available for retail in 2017.

Read More
One Earth Edibles From Peace Tree Farm

July 16, 2016

How To Capture Your Share Of The Edibles Market

At Peace Tree Farm, One Earth Edibles represent healthy living on a healthy planet.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]