Northern Sea Oats.....

flybynyte(Z4 NE-SD)July 20, 2005

Would like to read comments from gardeners who grow (or have grown) this grass, and how you may have used it in your garden(s). I understand this grass likes moisture, but not soggy soil. It really caught my eye at a nursery.


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AgastacheMan(z7 CA)

I have been growing Chasmanthium latifolium for over 13 years, and I never get tired of the interesting seed heads, fall colors, and wide blades. the plant likes moisture, you are correct, but make sure your soil incorporates more fir bark, than peat moss for you will experience root rot, and difficulty with root formation. Light shade is great for even color formation, but for deep shade, the colors will not appear. Right now, my Chasmanthiums are starting on their flowers, and hopefully this fall will be easy on the colors.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2005 at 12:00AM
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blackie57(z5 NY Broome Co)

This is my second year for this grass and it's really coming into its own..I love it..have it planted in a place where it gets sun until about 2 in the afternoon and then dappled shade after and it's just beautiful !!! Makes an incredible statement. A real keeper !


    Bookmark   July 21, 2005 at 10:09AM
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I grew my first clump from seed last year. I loved it! It bloomed, and I used it's seeds to grow 10 more clumps this year. Beautiful plant.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2005 at 10:24AM
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I planted a couple clumps of N. Sea Oats last year and they are doing very well. They don't need much sunlight compared to most grasses, and mine only get about 3 hours of afternoon sun each day. They have grown to about 3-1/2 tall this summer, and they have a bamboo-like appearance. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that they reseed readily and could be considered invasive for that reason. I've weeded a bunch of seedling out of my beds a couple times already and recently noticed more. The upside is that I've repotted a bunch of the seedlings and now have about a dozen small sea oats growing in pots.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2005 at 2:10PM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

I had two clumps last year here in 4a just west of Minneapolis. Both were in gardens with normal moisture, but they were in two very different locations. One was grown from seed last year, the other a plant several years old. Great texture variation for the flower garden. Neither returned this year, but I do have seedlings coming up.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2005 at 3:20PM
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jake(z4b-5 NE)

While I was attending classes at the College our Hort Instructor had 5 Chas. plants growing on the west side of a brick building w/ a sidewalk in front of the grasses. The grasses received full sun from about 11:30 -12 until night fall.

Chas was a little stunted compared to those plants that I have seen that have some shade in their daily routine but the seeds, plant color and heartiness of the plants never seemed to be an issue.

Moisture was average at best or as the rains came would be more appropriately stated.

We have a plant that just got plugged into the "dirt" or soil that will get rain when it comes but will get water when the turf grass gets it from the irrigation system.

The system is set for twice a week in this location at 20 minutes each. Not much but enough to sustain most all the plants that do get the irrigation water.

I have a tendency to be somewhat abusive to my grasses rather then baby them.


    Bookmark   July 21, 2005 at 5:33PM
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flybynyte(Z4 NE-SD)

Thanks for all the info everyone! Your help is greatly appreciated. Was a bit surprised by the comments from leftwood that his plants did not return. I was told by the nursery that the plant is rated for Z4 and should see no problem of it returning in the spring---although, may want to use some protection.

Now all I have to do is figure out just where I want to put it----make a home in the garden (which is nearly full sun), or along a sidewalk. The sidewalk area receives a bit more shade.

Thanks again for the info!

    Bookmark   July 22, 2005 at 7:53AM
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dogboy7(Atlanta GA)

I have a clump of this plant in a large. pot. It's starting to flower, so I guess it's doing okay. Any advice on how to overwinter it? The winters here are not too bad - will it go dormant like my zebra grass?

    Bookmark   July 25, 2005 at 6:31PM
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blackie57(z5 NY Broome Co)

Here's a photo of My Northers Sea Oats, whihc are planted next to a Miscanthus Gracillimus. As you can see they get shade after 2-3 in the afternoon thanks to the neighbors Maple tree. Just starting to set theie sed heads, which really sets this OG off. This clump is in its second year and is more sturdy and full than last.


    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 11:03AM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

Both my plants were not protected in the least over winter. But I am the only one reporting from solid z4. My talks with others in the are have mixed results, more (I think) unsuccessful than successful overwintering.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 7:58PM
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Blackie --

Where in the world did you find that crazy purple mulch?? I give it one more year and your Gracillimus will swallow the Chasmanthium whole...

    Bookmark   July 29, 2005 at 3:12AM
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flybynyte(Z4 NE-SD)

Ok, it is now Aug 2nd---and been in the ground about two weeks. My NSO is starting to show yellow tips on a few leaves. Also, on many of them, the tips are "scorching"----turning a crispy brown, not yellow. I have been watering it almost every few days as it has been hot lately. The gal at the nursery where I purchased it said it will need a little more care than most grasses. So, I have made sure it has moisture. I hope it's not croaking on me. Anyone have any thoughts?

    Bookmark   August 2, 2005 at 10:15AM
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blackie57(z5 NY Broome Co)

Back from vacation and got a chuckle out of pezhead's comment on the crazy "purple mulch". It's really just plain old red mulch but the shade gives it a purple hue I guess. I too fall into the "Plant 'em too close" trap whenever I plant things. guess I want the full look right away. The Gracillimus is three years old now and I'm sure I'm gunna have to move the Oats before too long. Next spring is gunna be a hard one with 4 or 5 grasses to move and two huge Morning Lights to divide.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2005 at 10:38AM
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But then 4 beautiful morning Lights is better than 2...
Recently saw a mass planting of Morning Light in a large traffic circle in an opening in some woods near Lewis and Clark college in Portland, OR. I'll be going back in late fall to see that amazing planting in bloom. What a plant.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 2:13AM
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blackie57(z5 NY Broome Co)

4 are deinfately better than two..but with the size of these, i'm sure it will be 8 are better than 2....i can divide them in quarters and still have good sized plants.. check out the size of this one....


    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 9:22AM
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Whoa! Wanna swap any of those divisions?

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 9:50AM
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Nice morning light! I have a single plant that size and I just love it. I've mentioned in other postings a great nursery called Joy Creek very near to where I live. They have a display garden with many massive grasses in it. I've noticed that with their giant clumps of Morning light they seem to have just chopped out pieces from the edges of the main clump. You probably were never intending to lift the entire clumps were you? Division shouldn't be too too hard for you to manage -- just be thankful there's a period of the season when the foliage is gone so you can manage the job!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2005 at 1:51AM
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blackie57(z5 NY Broome Co)


To be honest, I WAS going to try to dig up the entire plant. a chore i was NOT looking forward to as the plant is about 3+ feet in diameter. maybe I will just try to take pieces from the edge. and see if I can manage it that way. I believe, since it grows by increasing its diameter each year that eventually it will get even bigger ?? Or is this as big as it will get diameter wise ? If that's true it can stay where it is. Maybe Jake can help out here as well...he has TONS of grasses.


    Bookmark   August 10, 2005 at 10:04AM
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Mozart2(Zone 5 Michigan)


Sorry to answer your question so belatedly, but we've just become interested in ornamental grasses and have planted 2 Chasmanthium latifolium, also known as "Inland Sea Oats" in our garden area. So I can't really provide you with any garden experiences with this grass.

However, I can provide you with a most interesting gardening tool - the "search" section of the Kemper Center for Home Gardening at the wondrous Missouri Botanical Garden.

Below is a direct link to their extensive information on Chasmanthium latifolium.

In addition to "Inland Sea Oats" or "Northern Sea Oats" we have also decided to add "Flame Grass" Miscanthus 'Purpurascens' to our garden area. Here's a direct link to the MBG's information on this ornamental grass.

Since I was looking for a nice, fragrant perennial that would attack either or both butterflies and/or hummingbirds, I make use of their wonderful seach engine - found at the link at the end of this posting - and added Phlox paniculata 'Mount Fuji' to the garden.

Again, here's the direct link to the information on this plant.

Obviously, an excellent searching/informational tool. If you find yourself in the St. Louis, MO area don't forget to take the time to enjoy this superb garden - 1.5 days at least.

Until then, you can take a virtual tour at the two links listed below.

A general overview:

and a more detailed look:

Hope this belated information is most helpful in your future gardening endeavors.


Here is a link that might be useful: Missouri Botanical Garden - PlantFinder - Search

    Bookmark   October 22, 2005 at 12:17PM
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I've been growing this grass for 5 or 6 years and am considering getting rid of it because it seeds about so much and the seedlings are difficult to root out because the roots go deep quickly.

Also, I've discovered that voles seem to think it's a great hangout/base from which to multiply!

Otherwise, it's definitely a pretty grass. And one of the few taller grasses that looks really good in shade. And much more manageable in size than the Miscanthus family of cultivars.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2005 at 7:38PM
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jake(z4b-5 NE)

How did I let this post go bye for so long w/o responding? Sorry 'bout that. Many apologies to Blackie and all the rest of the readers.

B57 - I generally do not let my grasses get that large at the base but the experiences that I have had is the grass will expand and the center of the grass will die out. The outer ring will not be real thick and flourishing but thinner and less attractive as a whole.

But we all know that.

Also when I have let a grass get that big the whole plant seems to start faltering in stature. Not as thick, not as tall, just looking malnourished.

One thing that a person must remember is - if you chop off or cut a chunk of grass off the "mother" plant you will need to have some "dirt" to fill the hole. We actually have a pile in the perennial whackoƂs perennial garden that we steal dirt from.

How we end up with extra dirt is a mystery but it always seems to be there.

This past summer has been a bad growing season for the Jake grasses. As I abuse my grasses more than I care for them this year I was even meaner. Too many hours at the office and less yard maintenance. And it shows now. Everything is ugly.

With retirement around the corner, possibly Dec. or January, maybe I can get out in the yard more this coming season, clean up the beds and get some quality pictures to share.

Not promising anything but just trying to get a game plan established for next season.


    Bookmark   October 27, 2005 at 9:36AM
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Ah, Northern Sea Oats.. I thought it was really beautiful when my neighbor offered it to me. I love the ones in the South and they, of course, won't grow in Zone I was happy to get a near alternative. Well, it's been either 3 or 4 years and me, the dummy I am, thought it would be like other clump ornamental grasses.. Wrong! I have that stuff coming up everywhere...most places where I don't wnat it. I originally put it behind the swimming pool fence at the top of the bank. It now covers the entire bank which is about 32' long & about a sloping 7' tall. It has come inside the pool fence where I have a 2' deep flower bed along the pool walk. I have dug the grass from there, which is a real job as it has extensive roots. Plus, it continues to come out and I have to keep after it. A year ago this Spring we tried to kill all of it on the bank with Round Up.. It died, but it came back. So just thought some of you might want to know before it gets to carried away in your yard.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2006 at 12:21AM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

dkcsemo has those sort of woes because the plants were allowed to seed.

NEVER let it seed freely unless you want a LOTS of seedlings which are difficult to remove.

I enjoy the grass and ALWAYS cut it down before the seed heads turn brown. Then I stash a fistfull of the cut stems in a tall vase with just an inch or two of water. Left to its own devices it dries nicely and gives long term interest as a "cutflower."

    Bookmark   May 27, 2006 at 12:15AM
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adichristi(z 6)

dkcsemo.. We just planted it in the front beds and I heard that it's a runner. We are taking them out before it's a problem!

I was thinking of putting it in a container pot on the side of the house, but will I have a problem with them? (they reseed readily)

So, what do you think. In a container or throw them in the woods?

    Bookmark   June 11, 2006 at 8:02PM
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It's not a 'runner.' It reseeds, but is easily controlled. Either remove the seedheads before they ripen and scatter, or scratch out the volunteers when they appear.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2006 at 6:56AM
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adichristi(z 6)

donn, Thank you....

    Bookmark   June 12, 2006 at 9:16PM
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This is my third year with Northern Sea Oats which I planted at the base of a high deck, hoping the sea oats would fill the void, provide "natural fencing". It barely gets taller than one foot, last year I only had one seed head on the whole plant. This year, nothing! What is wrong? It is in medium quality soil, watered when it rains with some supplement (we have had plenty of rain this year) and it receives sun from about 11-2 (probably a bit less than that). Any ideas/suggestions?

    Bookmark   July 28, 2011 at 2:48PM
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All I can guess is not enough sun. Less than 3 hours counts as more than "part shade" in my book. Most plants need more sun when grown in colder zones. The sun range for C. latifolium is full sun to part shade, hardy to zone 3. I'd say the "full sun" applies to zones 3-5.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2011 at 5:15PM
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ontnative(5b Can/USDA 4)

I grow two clumps of Northern Sea Oats, both in quite a lot of shade. They grow well enough but are not thick or tall enough to act as a screen. I would suggest something else in that spot.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 2:48PM
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I have a 3-4 yr. old northern sea oats plant that is now the size of a bushel basket. Has the wider-than lawn grass leaves & now about 2 1/5 ft. tall. I saved some of the dry seeds from last year & planted them to get others to give away.. I have (so far) not had a problem with self-seeding & more plants all over . For some reason the dogs were immediately attracted to it & ate the leaves so the first year or so I had to cage the plant from the dogs! It is growing by the fish pond in full sun here in zone 7 at 5200 ft. in New Mexico & survived 9 degree winter last year. It(so far) hasn't been messy at all. I do prune back the dried, dead plant each spring. I love the plant!

    Bookmark   June 13, 2012 at 9:48PM
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