If you’re looking for a way to fill out your garden with a low-maintenance hardy plant for the summer, warm-season grasses may be just what you need. These grasses grow quickly in warm weather months to fill out empty spaces, and provide beautiful movement in the garden. As with any other landscaping project, though, you need to have the correct expectations of your warm-season grasses so that you use them correctly.
Warm-season grasses are well-suited to our climate in Southern California. Unlike a lot of plants, which can suffer in warm weather, warm-season grasses do very well in the summer. But aside from coping well with high temperatures, one major benefit of these grasses is that they do well in periods of drought. Of course, they do require some water, but their resistance to drought makes warm-season grasses well-suited to low-water, low-maintenance gardens.
Before planting, understand the growth habits of your grasses. Grasses can be either clump-forming or rhizome-forming (“running” grass). Clump-forming grasses grow in nice, rounded mounds which are great shapes for filling specific spots in your garden. They are non-invasive, so they will mix well with other plants without disturbing them. The size of the clump will increase slowly over time. Remember that warm-season grasses don’t show much growth until the weather and soil are consistently warm. So if you plant these grasses in the spring, leave room for their summer growth.
The rhizome-forming grasses, on the other hand, spread from small underground stems and can become very invasive. These grasses can be lovely and certainly have their place, but shouldn’t be used as a border or in any capacity in which you expect to train them. It’s important to understand how a grass grows so that you can use it appropriately in the garden.
Remember appropriate cool-season care for your grasses. In the fall, the previous season’s growth will become brown. Your warm-season grasses should be cut back to about four to six inches during cooler seasons, and growth will return as the weather warms up again the following spring and summer.
For help selecting your warm-season grasses, and advice on proper planting and care, please visit us at our nursery. We have a good selection of these grasses in stock, such as miscanthus, reed grass, japanese blood grass, blue fescue, zebra grass, and fountain grass (dwarf). We will be happy to help you select the one that is right for you.