Grasses for Shade

MsGreenfingers38September 2, 2004

Are there any tall grasses with plumes that can be used in moderate to full damp shade?

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I don't know that it qualifies as very tall, but bottlebrush grass is supposed to grow well in shade. It has cool bottlebrush like seed heads - hence the name.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2004 at 8:43PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

northern sea oats does well in shade - it doesnt really have a plume though but it does have an interesting seed head. gets maybe 4 to 5 ' -

in general, shade + tall is not a common combination for grass.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2004 at 9:42AM
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Luzula nivea, snowy woodrush, not a true grass, but looks like one. It has a nice white flower head slowly turning to cream as seed matures, and very slender leaves.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2004 at 7:16PM
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autumnmoon(6a/se ks)

I second the sea oats, I love it!!!!


    Bookmark   September 4, 2004 at 1:41AM
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jaysonmc(z8 WA)

Liriope muscari, though not really a grass, it is grass like in appearance and has flowers to boot.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2004 at 4:37PM
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If you want grass in shade plant sedges-carex.../there is many of them/
Also look for hakonechloa macranta

    Bookmark   October 27, 2004 at 9:20PM
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johnyaya(z7 MD)

Sea Oats work well in my wooded setting.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2004 at 11:18AM
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ademink(z5a-5b Indianapolis)

Sea oats and muscari here - love them!!

    Bookmark   November 9, 2004 at 12:58PM
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potterhead2(z5b NY)

Are Sea oats and muscari attractive to deer?

    Bookmark   November 10, 2004 at 11:43AM
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Fledgeling_(4b SD)

Golden Hakonechloa (Hakonechloa macrantha 'Aureola')is a creeping grass up to 2 feet high (usually lower) and its leaves cascade like a golden leafy waterfall. It grows in part and half shade. No plumes, tough, and very slow growing. Do not cut the plant back in spring like some other grasses. I have never seen it myself but i have heard of it.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2004 at 8:39PM
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A couple of corrections here: it is Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' or Japanese forest or Hakone grass. There are additional cultivars - a straight green form, a green variegated form ('Albostriata') and a solid gold form ('Aurea' or 'All Gold'). This is a herbaceous grass - dies to the ground in winter - so it DOES require early spring clean up, like other deciduous grasses. It DOES produce seedheads (typically sterile with the exception of the green form) but they are small and not showy. It is a warm season grass and is slow to emerge in spring.

With the exception of the sea oats (Chasmanthum), there are very few taller growing grasses suited to mostly shade. A few of the Carex will bring you upto 18-24" but not much taller.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2004 at 10:43AM
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froggy(z4/5 WI)

i find that big blue, canada and river wild ryes and indian grass all persist in not the most shady of areas.

ive found bottle brush under dense, deep shade doing just fine for many years.

and there are some sedges that look intense green in shady conditions, Pennsylvania sedge being the most common in my part of the world. but they are pretty small.

lastly there is a native fescue that is somewhat common around my parts but it looks pretty much like a weed and not what most gardners would call attractive. called nodding fescue. i would say that in full flower, it looks much fuller than the following picture.


Here is a link that might be useful: pennsylvania sedge

    Bookmark   December 30, 2004 at 8:12AM
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Carex and sea oats are good for shade and deer don't like them. The deer LOVE my liriope and muscari.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2005 at 11:33AM
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vtskiers(z6a CentralCT)

Do any of you who are growng Sea Oats find it to be a nuisance seeder? One of the reasons I've avoided it is I've heard it seeds everywhere.


    Bookmark   January 9, 2005 at 9:37PM
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Soeur(z6b TN)

Being many miles from the sea we call it River Oats around here, but Chasmanthium latifolium is a good choice for a 3-4 foot high grass, as others have suggested. It doesn't have plumes, though. And Elymus patula (Bottlebrush Grass) is also striking and a good choice, but not plumey either. Both these grasses will grow happily in pretty serious shade. A couple more shade grasses (though not plumed) would be Elymus canadensis (Wild Rye) or the closely related E. glabriflorus, with seed heads that recall a grain crop like, well, rye. And one more, probably hard to find in the trade but one of my faves, is Chasmanthium laxa, a delightful grass with a growth habit like Hakonechloa and interesting narrow elongated seed heads that are smallish but surprisingly showy.

The only grasses with something like a plume that I've seen growing in some shade are Deschampsias, both D. caespitosa (dampish 1/2 to 3/4 shade) and D. flexuosa (dry 3/4 shade). The Deschampsias' flower/seed heads aren't dense, though, but feathery. Very pretty. Another possibility, depending on your location -- and this one's got true plumes -- is Sorghastrum nutans, Indian Grass. Although usually described as a full sun plant, around here this species also occurs naturally in morning shade/afternoon sun settings, both moist and dry. Indian Grass is a big, spectacular grass with showy chestnut-bronze plumes late summer into fall.

There may be others I'm not familiar with... heaven knows there are tons of grass sp. These are ones I've grown and know to perform as described.


    Bookmark   January 17, 2005 at 11:45PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

i agree that Indian Grass does tolerate quite a bit of shade in my yard. and i think that Indian Grass is one of the most beautiful native grasses. but i wouldnt reccomend it for heavy shade.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2005 at 10:31AM
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woodland_gardens(z5 WI)

I have not found Chasmanthium to be a nuisance seeder. It seems that most complaints I see about it are from the south. Personally I can seed propagate mine any year and get 50% or less germination.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2005 at 7:37PM
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Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning Light'- Japanese Silver Grass is 4-5' and tolerates part shade. It has plumes. It is less floppy than some of the other miscanthus.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2005 at 7:47PM
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