shade grasses

jasonkay(z5 IL)July 22, 2005

I am planning a garden in part shade (2-3 hrs direct sun and mostly dappled shade). I'd like to mix some woodland grasses with the flowers, but would like something that is only 2-3' tall. Northern sea oats, wild rye, and bottlebrush grass are all taller than that.

I saw muhlenbergia mexicana at about 2' recommended in one catalogue, but I've heard that it's invasive.

Any suggestions?

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What I'd do if I were you is look into sedges, rather than grasses. In southern Indiana, sedges almost entirely replace grasses in shade, except in particularly low, moist areas. Anyways... I don't know offhand if it's readily available commercially, but painted sedge (Carex picta) is the one I'd really look for if I were you. I've linked a picture of a slope with Carex picta from near Bloomington. All the grassy looking stuff is Carex picta. It usually forms nice bands of dense growth on the south sides of ridges, in the area of transition from the top of the ridge to the slope itself. Forms clumps about a foot high. I've never tried growing it, but have figured for a while now that it'd be an excellent thing for shade gardening.

Patrick Alexander

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   July 22, 2005 at 4:07PM
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Soeur(z6b TN)

In addition to C. picta, you could try C. pensylvanica (very fine-textured, running), C. rigida (fine-textured, clumping), C. flaccosperma (medium texture, glaucous blue green leaves, clumping), and C. platyphylla (low flattish rosettes of broad powder blue green leaves, clumping).

There are shortish woodland grasses that are pretty handsome, but may be difficult to find. Look for Melica mutica, which likes hillsides in medium shade here in TN. Habit is soft and arching, color is deep green. Spreads gently by short runners. Another terrific grass is Deschampsia flexuosa, which likes dryish open shade. Clumping habit, very fine texture, airy open bloom/seed panicles.


    Bookmark   July 22, 2005 at 9:34PM
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I have never seen bottlebrush grass taller than three feet in Ohio. Blue eyed grass is nice.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2005 at 1:00AM
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dbs_illinois_4(z4b Illinois)

One I tried from seed and have fallen in love with is Beak Grass--Diarrhena americana. Definitely stays 2-3 feet (mine is 2). It has fairly broad leaves that are a beautiful shiny green and turn creamy colored in winter. I can't figure out why I never see this grass mentioned anywhwere, it is gorgeous, and has even been withstanding our Illinois drought! My Bottlebrush Grass also doesn't get more than 3 feet, at least so far.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2005 at 6:24PM
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tspencer60(z7 OK)

Northern Sea Oats is easy. It seeds off and forms a nice herbacious layer under even pretty dense shade. Couple that with some summer-blooming natives and it looks great.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2005 at 10:33PM
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Bottlebrush grass will be 2-3 feet tall in the area you describe. I've got in in a place where it's in shade by 11:00 a.m., and it barely reaches 3 feet.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2005 at 10:12AM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

Hakonechloa macra aureola is bout 1 foot tall in my garden and the weeping chartreuse striped leaves are gorgeous.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2005 at 1:00PM
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well_drained(z6a MA)

Here in eastern MA, the bottlebrush grass (including seed heads) in my yard is about 5 feet high. Am I doing something wrong or right?

-- wd

    Bookmark   August 25, 2005 at 3:48PM
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jasonkay(z5 IL)

My bottlebrush grass here in Chicago grows to 4'. My brother in Minneapolis has had the same experience.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2005 at 1:16PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

More grasses and sedges for shade (not sure regarding hardiness):

Carex grayi (very cool mace-like seed heads)
Carex plantaginea
Carex siderostricha variegata
Luzula sp
Hystrix patula
Uncinia sp

    Bookmark   September 27, 2005 at 1:18PM
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My absolute favorite sedge is Bowles Golden Sedge".

It stands out as bright lime green. It likes shade.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2005 at 10:31PM
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I'm going to have a steep slope in mid Alabama that will be difficult to mow. I need something native to keep the hill from washing. Would a sedge or one of these grasses be a good fit? Where do I find seed, or plants? I want something that won't grow too high, 12-24 inches max.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2005 at 2:18PM
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