When planted right and in the right spot,  ornamental grasses are exceptionally easy to grow in the ground or in containers. 

Here's a breakdown of what you need to know...


Cultural Preferences


Soil

With the exception of bog grasses, which like constantly wet soil, most other ornamental grasses, such as maiden grasses, muhly grass and pampas grass, will grow in a wide range of soils, from sandy to well-drained clay. They prefer a moist but well-drained soil while establishing themselves, however will tolerate periods of dry soil when established. As with so many other ornamental plants, constantly soggy or wet soils can be problematic. So make sure the planting site is a well-drained one.


How To Test Soil Drainage  

If you are uncertain about soil drainage in the area you intend to plant your ornamental grass, it's well worth taking the time to test the drainage before planting. To test soil drainage, dig a hole 12" wide by 12" deep in the planting area. Fill the hole with water and let it drain. Then, after it drains, fill it with water again, but this time clock how long it takes to drain. In well-drained soil the water level will go down at a rate of about 1 inch an hour. A faster rate, such as in loose, sandy soil, may signal potentially dry site conditions. A slower rate indicates poor draining soil and could be a caution you might need to improve drainage, plant in a raised mound or bed, or look for plants that are more tolerant of wet or boggy conditions.


Soil pH

Various types of ornamental grasses may have different soil pH preferences. So it's good to know the preference of the specific type of grass you are planting. Under the 'Description' tab on every plant page in Wilson Bros Gardens you will find the soil pH preference. 


Testing Soil pH  

Soil pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of soil and is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as the neutral mark. Any measurement below 7 indicates acid soil conditions, and anything above 7 indicates alkaline. If you're unsure about the pH of your soil, or suspect your soil is not suitable for growing the ornamental grass you're planting, it's a good idea to test the pH in the planting area. You can quickly test soil pH with an inexpensive soil pH tester probe. To raise the pH (make more alkaline) you can add pelletized limestone to the soil. To lower the pH (make more acid) you can apply Soil SulfurAluminum Sulfate, or Chelated Iron. Adding organic compost to the soil or using compost as mulch can also help to increase acidity and maintain acid soil conditions.





Light Needs

Most ornamental grasses grow best in full sun. They are less vigorous and have a tendency to flop in too much shade. A little shade during the day is okay. We recommend at least 6-8 hours of direct sun per day. That being said, there are a few ornamental grass species that will grow in part shade.




Step-By-Step Planting Instructions

Scroll down to see planting instructions for containers and pots


TIP: Water the root ball deeply before removing the plant from its container.


Step 1

Start by digging your planting hole two to three times as wide and as deep or not much deeper than the root ball of your plant. The wider the hole the better. Place native soil removed from planting hole around the perimeter of the hole, in a wheel barrow, or on a tarp.


Step 2

Depending on the type, fertility and porosity of the soil in the planting area you might need to amend the native soil. When planting in dense clay it is beneficial to thoroughly mix in some bagged top soil, sand, and/or a good planting mix at a 50/50 ratio with the clay soil. When planting in very sandy, quick-draining soil you might want to consider mixing in some top soil, peat moss and/or compost to help retain some moisture. When planting in fertile, loamy, well-drained soil there is no need for adding a soil amendment.


Step 3

To remove your grass plant from the container it was growing in, firmly grasp the base of the plant and try to gently lift and remove it from its container. If the root ball is stuck in the container either cut the container away or place the plant on it's side and gently pound on the side of the container to loosen the root ball. After having removed the plant from the container, loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the root ball. If root bound, you can gently spray the sides and bottom surfaces of the root ball with a stream of water from a garden hose. This will help to wash away some soil from the exterior of the root ball making it easier to loosen roots. 


Step 4

Set your plant in the planting hole so that the top edge of the root ball is at or slightly above ground level to allow for settling. It may be necessary to place some of your backfill soil mixture in the bottom of the hole to achieve proper planting height.

NOTE: If the soil is poorly drained (constantly soggy or wet) you can create a mound of soil completely above ground level to plant in, or consider planting a plant species tolerant of wet soils. 





Step 5

After setting your plant in the planting hole, use one hand to hold the plant straight while using your other hand to begin backfilling the soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go to remove air pockets. When you have filled the hole to the halfway point you can soak the soil. Then continue backfilling to the top edge of the root ball. If you are planting with the root ball above ground level, taper your soil mixture gradually to the ground level, essentially creating a raised mound. To avoid suffocating your plant, do not put any soil on top of the root ball.


Step 6 (Optional)

If you are planting your ornamental grass in a location far away from a water source, you can use remaining soil mixture to build a water retaining berm (water catch basin) around the outside perimeter of the planting hole. This basin will help to collect water from rainfall and irrigation often reducing the need for hand-watering. The berm can be removed after a year or so.


Step 7 

Next, deeply water the planting area, including the root ball, to a depth equal to the height of the root ball. For an extra boost, you can also water your newly planted ornamental grass with a solution of Root Stimulator, which stimulates early root formation and stronger root development. Root Stimulator reduces plant shock and promotes greener, more vigorous plants.


Step 8

Apply a 1 to 2" layer of aged, shredded wood mulch or bark, or a 3- 4" layer of pine straw, around your newly planted Maiden grass. Do not use freshly chipped or shredded wood for mulch until it has cured in a pile for at least 6 months, a year is better. 




Container Planting Instructions


Ornamental grasses growing in pots appreciate a moist but well-drained soil. Constantly soggy soil can and often will cause root rot or other harmful or deadly plant diseases. Therefore, when planting in a container or pot, we recommend using a high quality potting soil or professional potting mix, or a 50/50 combination thereof. To enhance drainage in containers, you can also add pumice to the soil mixture (maybe 20 to 30%), especially with plants that need a very well-drained soil. Pumice is highly porous providing excellent water, air, and nutrient holding capabilities. Pumice will not decompose or compact over time and is very lightweight. Agricultural grade pumice can usually be found at local feed stores as a product called Dry Stall. The particle size is about 1/8". It's a good idea to wash the product before use to remove the fine particles. If you can't find Pumice you can substitute with perlite.

Choose a container with drainage holes at the bottom and one that is large enough to allow for 2 to 3 years of growth before shifting up to a larger size container. This might mean your planting pot would be 5-6 inches or more in width than the root ball of your plant. 

Container color will matter as well. Not only will you want to pick a color of container that goes well with the foliage color and texture of your grass, you'll also want to pick a container that matches the style of your home or other structures and other plants in the surrounding environment. 

Many nursery & garden centers offer a wide variety of containers to choose from. Before heading out to buy a container take pictures of your home and the surrounding environment. Doing so will help you to choose just the right color and style.



Container Planting Instructions


Step 1

Before filling your container with the soil mix, we recommend lining the bottom with shade cloth or a porous landscape fabric. This will keep the drain holes from becoming stopped up with soil. 


Step 2

To remove your grass  plant from the container it was growing in, firmly grasp the base of the plant and try to gently lift and remove it from its container. If the root ball is stuck in the container either cut the container away or place the plant on it's side and gently pound on the side of the container to loosen the root ball. After having removed the plant from the container, loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the root ball. If root bound, you can gently spray the sides and bottom surfaces of the root ball with a stream of water from a garden hose. This will help to wash away some soil from the exterior of the root ball making it easier to loosen roots.  


Step 3

Pour a small amount of your soil mixture in the bottom of the container. Set the plant in the container and make necessary adjustments by adding or removing some soil so that the top edge of the root ball will sit 1/2 to 1" below the rim of the container.



Step 4

Backfill with your potting soil around root ball, tamping as you go, until the level of potting soil is even with the top edge of root ball.


Step 5

Water thoroughly until water starts to drain from the holes in the bottom of the container. Add more potting mix if settling occurs during watering.


Step 6 (Optional)

Apply a 1/2" layer of wood chips or sphagnum moss to soil surface to help conserve moisture. Stone mulch can also be used. You might also consider planting low spreading annual flowers or groundcover plants around your grass plant as a soil cover.



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