to pot up, plant or leave be?

pezheadSeptember 20, 2005

Picked up 4 Pennisetum a. 'Hameln' and 1 Miscanthus 'Purpurascens' at a local supermarket as late summer neglected plants on sale for $2.99 each. The Pennisetum don't even have blooms. They all feel as though they'd love to come out of these cramped pots and have thier roots loosened and either re-potted or planted. Wondering if anyone has input. I don't want to stress these plants before winter by messing with them too much but feel bad for them in their current state!

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I think you have plenty of time to get them into the ground, and they'll take good hold before the dead of winter. I'm still planting out all sorts of grasses and other perennials started this year from seed. They'll take root, even through mild frosts. Last year, I planted out grass divisions (M. sinensis) and perennial divisions (Coreopsis) as late as mid December. They all did fine. I put them in relatively protected nursery beds.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2005 at 6:02AM
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So is there no or little validity in the "conventional" belief that warm season growers should not be tampered with during this period of the year?

    Bookmark   September 20, 2005 at 8:07PM
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The explanation provided to me in hort school was that the roots of warm season grasses enter a period of dormancy in fall, therefore late season planting or dividing runs the risk of the roots not "taking" and failing over the cold and wet of winter. Not sure how well this applies to areas other than the PNW and I have not tested this convention myself, as I tend towards evergreen cool season grasses primarily. I have found though that our growing season is short enough and mild enough that most pennisetums fail to bloom or bloom very late and shy away from them as a result.

At that price, it is certainly worth the risk. Try it and report back on your results in the spring.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2005 at 6:27AM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

gardengal48 wrote: "I have found though that our growing season is short enough and mild enough that most pennisetums fail to bloom or bloom very late and shy away from them as a result."

You don't state where in WA you live. But here in Portland, all the Pennisetums I've had bloom well.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2005 at 12:09AM
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I have to concur with Jean. I have many Pennisetums in my Portland area garden and particularly the Pennisetum Orientale are EARLY bloomers in good sun or even part shade and they bloom ALL summer and into the fall. 'Karly Rose' is wonderful and blooms very strong. We have a long growing season! Gardengal -- start some warm season grasses!!

The Pennisetums I recently bought did not bloom -- I'm fairly sure -- because they were not in adequate sun and the pots restricted their growth. It may be because these grasses have not bloomed that I choose to repot them in soil with excellent drainage so they don't have issues as we head into the wetter season.

Thanks for input folks.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2005 at 1:17AM
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I live in the Seattle area and while our climates are similar, we are even more mild than the Portland region - it doesn't get as hot in summer nor as cold in winter. Lack of summer heat is often a hinderance to blooming for many warm season plants - crape myrtles only bloom here in the hottest of summers, for example and many plants hardy to zone 8 and very common in other zone 8 regions fail to perform as well here because lack of summer heat does not allow for ripening of new growth before winter.

I buy plants for a retail nursey, including ornamental grasses, and my experience over the years has shown that a number of warm season grasses fail to bloom reliably in this area. Karly Rose IS a good performer, as are some other orientales, but most of the alopecuroides cultivars will go through the season as just clumps of grass and not particulalry distinctive ones, at that. Even a good many Miscanthus cultivars fail to set bloom reliably. For example, a huge stand of Miscanthus 'Cosmopolitan" planted in full sun in a reflected heat location at my nursery has not a single indication of blooming this season, although in last year's hotter, drier summer it was in full bloom by this time.

I do grow some warm season grasses personally, Karly Rose being just one, but my own garden tends to be focused more on evergreen, lower maintenance plantings and most of the evergreen OG's tend to be cool season ones.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2005 at 11:51AM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

hey gardengal,

When it comes to the likes of 'Cosmopolitan,' I figure the stunning variegated leaves offer lots of decorative element. No need for flowers!

Same goes for two more lovely variegated Miscanthus cultivars, 'Cabaret' and 'Dixieland.'

    Bookmark   September 24, 2005 at 12:43AM
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