Ornamental Landscape Grasses Trial

Phase I

As part of our Statewide efforts in Earth-Kind® Landscape practices, which focuses primarily on landscape water conservation, this ornamental grass trial searched to find out which commonly available ornamental grass selections perform well, even under extreme heat and drought pressure with no or limited applied irrigation. Secondary outcomes from this project also provided us with information on each selection’s ability to overwinter in the landscape, and as well, whether or not they have the tendency to reseed in the landscape. Phase one of this trial began in 2014. We collected continual data as we moved into phase 2 and 3 of this project. Now, in July of 2018, we have constructed our final report and local result publication.

The following are the top 12 Ornamental Grasses from the 2014-2016 study:

  • Melinis nerviglumis (Ruby Crystals Grass)
  • Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ (Fountain Grass)
  • Pennisetum ‘Princess Caroline’ (Purple Fountain Grass)
  • Andropogon Scoparius (Little Blue Stem)
  • Panicum Virgatum, ‘Shenandoah’ (Switchgrass)
  • Cymbopogon sp. (Lemongrass)
  • Muhlenbergia capillaries (Pink Muhly Grass)
  • Miscanthus sinensis (Maiden Grass selections)
  • Dianella tasmanica variegate (Variegated Flax Lily)
  • Carex phyllocephala (Sparkler Sedge)
  • Anthericum saundersiae (Shooting Star Lily)
  • Chrysopogon zizanioides (Vetiver Grass)

Phase II

These grasses had variables which tested them beyond drought tolerance. In a procedure intended to establish the quality, performance, and reliability through heat and drought, we encountered variables we had not considered. We had an unusually hard freeze in 2017 and weeks of rain due to Hurricane Harvey, which subjected them to cruel circumstances. Though grasses tend to be disease resistant in normal circumstances, some were lost to Scale, perhaps weakened by the extremes. Our favorite phase 2 grasses which thrived, despite the extreme conditions are below:

  • Juncus effuses (Common Rush)
  • Panicum virgatum (‘Dallas Blues’ Switchgrass)
  • Cortaderia selloana (Pink Pampas Grass)
  • Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’ (Variegated Maiden Grass)

The top 12 performers in the original 72 grasses tested are still showing their resilience, even after the extreme weather conditions.

Click here to read the grass trial report.

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