How to Care for Vermilion Plants

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Vermilion, or Spartina alternaiflora, is a smooth, native, perennial cordgrass that forms dense colonies along coastal shorelines and tidal flats. When naturalized along shorelines, vermilion is an effective plant for buffering tidal erosion. It filters sediments and solids and prevents storm damage to coastal wetlands. Vermilion flourishes in warm, coastal climates and is firmly established along the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico. Vermilion grows in huge clumps and reaches heights of 24 to 72 inches. It will grow in standing, brackish waters from 1 to 18 inches in depth.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Sharp knife
  • Consider the climate and conditions. Vermilion cordgrass only grows in salty soils and brackish waters. It will not survive when planted in ordinary garden soil. Vermilion is found in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) climate zones 8 to 9.

  • Plant vermilion cordgrass in coastal locations. It is a widely used landscape favorite for protecting ocean-front properties from tidal erosion. Plant vermilion from plants purchased from your local landscape center. Vermilion grows in saltwater-saturated soil. Water content may vary from slightly damp to water 18 inches deep. Plant gallon-size, established, well-rooted plants in areas that are subject to wave action. Large plants with deep roots are less subject to movement and displacement by waves.

    Dig the plants in as deeply as possible at low tide, using the shovel. Put some large rocks around the base of the plant to help hold it in place during periods of wave action. Vermilion has tenacious roots that will grow quickly and anchor the plant.

    Plant bare root plugs in an area with very shallow, standing water. Bare root plugs are the most economical way to establish coverage in backwater or tidal pools that are not subject to wave action or tidal changes. Plugs can be purchased in growing flats from coastal landscape nurseries, or a larger plant can be cut apart with the sharp knife and the sections replanted.

  • Do not fertilize. Vermilion prefers nutrient-poor, sandy soil.

  • Plant with caution. Vermilion spreads rapidly and can be invasive.

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