Testing potting mixes for grasses..

donn_(7b-8a)May 11, 2011

I'm in the process of potting up a bunch of new ornamental grasses which I've received over the past few weeks, so I thought it would be interesting to run a little test of a variety of different potting mixes.

I selected 3 each of 3 varieties of grass, as close to each other in size (within variety) as possible, and potted each in a different mix.

Left to right, the grasses are:

Imperata cylindrica 'Red Baron' (2.5" size)

Pennisetum alopecuroides 'PennStripe' (3.25" size)

Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Cassian' (3.25" size)

The plants were potted up in 4"x4"x7" plant bands, which are about 1.8 liters.

The first row was potted in my version of "Al's Mix" (Al is GW member Tapla); 3:1:1 pine bark fines:Sphagnum Peat Moss:Coarse Perlite. The major difference between my version and Al's version is I use finer fines for small containers. I add a variety of amendments, from compost to lime, depending upon the plants. Nothing was added for this experiment.

The second row was potted in MetroMix 510 potting mix from SunGro. This is a mix I use for seed starting and potting on very small seedlings and plants. The ingredients are similar to Al's Mix, with the exception of what SunGro calls a "nutrient charge." They wouldn't tell me what it consists of, but say it is organic. The mix is also a bit finer in texture than Al's Mix.

The third row was potted in a 50/50 blend of Al's Mix and MetroMix 510.

The flat will be kept in about 6 hours of sun per day, and will be bottom-watered as needed.

I'll photograph the results as time goes by. The plants will probably stay in these containers until at least mid-summer.

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Did you start the Imperata from cuttings or seeds? I keep reading that they mutate (it sounded like the seeds from a 'Rubra' will mutate). Is this true? Sounds a bit different than when they crossbreed. Is the trick to keep your eye on color and form/weed out the 'mutants' or what?

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 3:58PM
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I bought a 21-cell liner of them. I've had a few of them in the past, and never had one revert to all green, but I also never had one flower, so no seeds. From what I've read, if one reverts, you're supposed to destroy it, because the species is quite invasive.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 4:22PM
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Did you buy them online? If so, is there a minimum? Some places I have checked seem to have a minimum and are strictly wholesale to nurseries. I'd love to buy a flat of Sporobolus heterolepsis except I don't quite need 21. I assume you have to buy a whole flat of each variety?

Another I want is Oryzopsis hymenoides except I am a bit leery of this one because the humidity might get it even with the good drainage which I do have. I'd welcome an entire flat of this one. I was planning to get seeds to winter over for next season or maybe just chump off and order a plant from Great Basin Natives and collect my own seeds. I haven't decided.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 6:39PM
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I bought them through PerennialMarket.com, linked below. They sell wholesale to nurseries (which I am). Their minimum is 4 trays, and each tray is all one variety. They are a jobber for numerous growers all over the country.

They don't have O. hymenoides on their availability list, but they do have a few Sporobolus listed.

Here is a link that might be useful: PerennialMarket.com

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 6:54PM
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Well, thanks anyway. That's impractical for the likes of me, too expensive because its too many plants. Better to have patience with seeds. I didn't expect much because I've been all over the internet checking it out. I did ask our local grower who sells at the Farmer's Market if he'd do the Prairie Dropseed and he said he would look into it. The O. hymenoides isn't available many places. High Country has it also but I really like these guys at Great Basin.

Have you ever ordered from Seedman? I prefer ordering from places that have PayPal but read a few negative reviews about them on Dave's Garden. Jelitto and that other place you gave me have that Euro thing and I can't make heads or tails of how to place an order. Plus, it looked like Jelitto had a minimum order except I couldn't make out what it was and found the entire thing confusing.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 7:24PM
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I've never bought from Seedman. I look at the site for information, but that's it.

Jelitto is a breeze to order from, and they are the supplier for many growers who sell seed-grown plants online. I think the minimum is 30 Euros ($42.33), but it's easy to reach. I've received two orders from them so far this year, and have another list building. Their germination rates are excellent, and seed counts are fair.

I just sowed some of their seeds today:

Andropogon scoparius 'Blaze'...seed count 261
Andropogon scoparius 'Prairie Blues'...seed count 215
Luzula sylvatica 'Solar Flair'...seed count 185
Deschampsia cespitosa 'Pixie Fountain'...seed count 237

I sowed 25 seeds each into 3" square x 6" deep plant bands. Four cells for each variety. The A. scoparius has a light dusting of vermiculite covering them, and the others are uncovered. After the flat is done bottom-watering, and misted on the top, it will go into a clear plastic bag to await germination. It will only require re-watering the top, with a misting, once a week.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 6:20PM
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I want to try what you are doing with the germination. I think perhaps I had bad luck on some grass seed because I covered them, maybe too deep?

I looked Jelitto up again. Those commas in the prices threw me but I think if I actually go through the steps I will figure it out. Another site I have looked at is Hazard's Seed. They have a lot of grass seed.

Bluestem is my all time favorite grass of all the grasses. I want to increase the area of bluestem in my garden, it is so gorgeous massed and has interest all four seasons with the exception of about one month when you first cut them. I collected all the volunteer seedlings of the 'Blues' today and planted them in a separate area. They are on the other side of my house, a long distance from the other two types so I don't think they did any cross breeding. I didn't think they would come true from seed but after reading that you ordered the 'Prairie Blue' type, maybe they do. Seemed I'd read they don't somewhere.

I am growing these types:
Native 'Okies'
Native New Mexico type (seed from Plants of the SW)
'The Blues'

I have been wanting to start some 'Blaze'. I am only just now aware you can grow them from seed after reading your post.

These three I am growing are each noticeably different. The native Okies get taller and are stiff, like they are spray starched, although they start out slower and more yellowish green.

The New Mexicans are bluer and thicker, have longer leaves, shorter blooms and are not as stiffly upright. The clump is very pretty all summer before blooming, quite ornamental.

I will see this year how 'The Blues' differ, so far they are lighter blue than the New Mexicans but shorter than both the others. I ordered 14 of them from SRG last fall.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 12:44AM
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I should have specified Little Bluestem. Andropogon scoparius. I figured you would know but still, better to be specific. I have been online checking other strains and am very interested in 'Itasca'. A shorter and much thicker strain, VERY PRETTY. I saw it at Bluestem Nursery which describes it as blue/purple color, you have probably seen it. I have been looking for seed. I found it at Prairie Land Management. The only sites that carry it are land reclamation type sellers that sell by the pound.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 2:57AM
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