Ornamental Grass Is Turning Brown

Ornamental grasses make an elegant statement in home landscaping. They generally grow taller than other bedding plants, and create an attractive background for other varieties of plants, yet are wispy enough to avoid visual heaviness. Ornamental grasses grow vigorously with little maintenance. They are generally pest- and disease-resistant and come in a variety of types to suit any garden area.

  1. Types of Ornamental Grass

    • Ornamental grasses offer a wide variety of species, including flowering varieties like feather reed grass, Japanese silver grass or porcupine grass. Northern sea oats has bamboo-like foliage and green flowers that turn to gray. Morning light has narrow, white-tinted leaves that look like they are radiating light from within. Foxtrot fountain grass grows up to 5 feet tall and produces dark plumes in late summer. Red-head fountain grass bears purplish-red buds that develop into striking, purple plumes. Blue lymegrass is good for cool climates and bears blue-green spikes on gray-blue foliage. This grass can be invasive, however, and should be planted with caution.

    Ornamental Grass Care

    • Most ornamental grasses require full sun, though a few varieties grow in shade. Weed ornamental grass as needed. Spreading mulch around plants will help to reduce weed growth. Irrigate grass plants as needed during dry periods. Ornamental grasses do not have high nutritional needs, but they may need fertilizer in nutrient-depleted soils. The University of Rhode Island recommends a 10-10-10 fertilizer applied at a rate of 1 pound per 100 square feet in spring and fall. Also do a soil test to see if additional calcium or magnesium is needed.

    Problems of Ornamental Grass

    • Ornamental grasses can turn brown from harsh winter weather. This is generally not permanent, and the plant will revive when warm weather returns. Soil compaction can cause disease in ornamental grasses when air circulation around plants is blocked. High-nitrogen soils can cause ornamental grasses to collapse, so use fertilizer sparingly. Low light conditions can contribute to plant disease.

    Solving Ornamental Grass Problems

    • If severe browning occurs due to harsh winters, cut down the foliage to 3 to 4 inches in early spring to stimulate new growth. Some varieties of ornamental grass, like pampas grass, have blades with very sharp edges that can cut skin. Wear heavy jeans and long sleeves when pruning or mulching. Add organic soil amendments such as compost or manure to the soil around plants, to help water retention and air circulation. Ensure that plants get plenty of sunlight to prevent disease.

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  • Photo Credit pampas grass image by AND Inc. from Fotolia.com

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