little bluestem groundcover?

castorpJuly 24, 2010

I'm wondering if little bluestem would be a good groundcover choice for zone 9, Florida. I was thinking about just buying a forage variety and sowing in the autumn.

The conditions are quite harsh here--long growing season, poor soil, spring droughts, high temps, summer monsoons, hurricanes, etc.

I'm looking for a good dependable perennial grass that will grow thick but not too tall. I want it to look good into the autumn.

I've experimented with grasses native to this area in the past and I've been dissatisfied. They tend to be thin and wiry and take a long time to fill back in after mowing. Some of the lusher varieties like Indian grass struggled in the poor sand. Other varieties grew too large.

I'm currently experimenting with purple lovegrass. I like it so far, but donn here on this forum has warned me of its invasiveness so I'm considering alternatives.

I'm very open to other ideas.

Thank you.


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Little Bluestem is incredibly tough. Once established, almost nothing bothers it. The species grows to 3' in my zone, and with your conditions, 4' wouldn't surprise me. Cultivars like 'Blues' and 'Blaze' are a little shorter, but can't be grown from seed.

In my opinion, that's too tall for a groundcover, and cutting a meadow of it without appropriate machinery would be a real chore. If burning is allowed in your area, that would be the way to do it.

You might want to look at some of the Carex varieties. Many of them are made to order for your climate, are lower growing, are semi-evergreen and can be grown from seed or plugs.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 1:46PM
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Thanks, donn

Yes, three to four feet would be way too tall, so little bluestem is out.

I've been investigating Carex. There are many dozens of them native to our area, but I'm having a hard time figuring out which are the best varieties for the garden. Many of the ones I've read about being used in garden situations are rated for zone 8 or lower, so I'm reluctant to try them here on the zone 9a/b border. Lots of zone 8 plants struggle here. None of my native plant books have much to say about using carex either. Seems like I remember the book "The American Meadow Garden" recommends a sedge for this area. I'll have to check it out from the library again. Thanks for the tip!


    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 12:19PM
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Hi Bill,

Here's a partial list of Carex which are hardy to and through zone 9:

ciliatomarginata 'Treasure Island'
conica 'Snowline'
dolichostachya 'Kaga-nishiki' GOLD
elata 'Aurea'
glauca 'Blue Zinger'
grayi (easy from seed)
laxiculmis 'Hobb' BUNNY BLUE
morrowii (many cultivars)
muskingumensis (easy from seed)
oshimensis (many cultivars)
phyllocephala 'Sparkler'
siderosticha (many cultivars)

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 12:36PM
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Thanks for the list, donn! I'm researching them and considering. . .

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 8:47AM
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