Inland Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium): A Seasonal Look

I love this plant.

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It’s a beautiful shade-loving grass, excellent for erosion control, prized by wildlife for cover and seeds, and a water-wise choice for gardeners.

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Inland Sea Oats, Chasmanthium latifolium, is the go-to plant for so many difficult garden situations.

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What’s not to love about that?

Native to a large swath of North America, this grass forms a dense cluster requiring little effort by gardeners throughout its growing season. Let’s take a look at how this valuable wildlife and landscape perennial performs throughout the year–A Seasonal Look for Inland Sea Oats.

Fresh, green stalks appear in late February or early March (in Austin, Texas) after winter dormancy and gardeners’ pruning shears.   Those fresh, verdant shoots will emerge later if you live and grow further north.

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I usually wait until I see the bright green sprouts of new growth from the basal clump before I cut back the previous year’s growth.  However, one can prune before–it’s really a matter of aesthetics and available time. The dormant beige grass does get a bit tatty toward the latter part of winter so if that’s a problem for you whack away to the ground whenever the mood strikes! 20120202_16_cropped_4474x3299..newInland Sea Oats is attractive  in winter,  but it’s a good idea to plant it in companionship with evergreens,

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…just because it’s nice to have some botanical interest while the Oats are dormant.

During the spring months,  Inland Sea Oats grow,

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…and grow.  The foliage reaches two-three feet in height.   Seed heads develop in the late spring and early summer, adding texture and grace to the lovely grass foliage.

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Through most of summer, the foliage and seeds share the same brilliant green coloring.

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Elegant and lush during the hottest time of the year, Inland Sea Oats grass is drought-tolerant, requiring little irrigation.  In my gardens, soaker hoses lie along the root zone of most, though not all of my Inland Sea Oats groups and receive irrigation once or twice/month. I grow several groups that receive no irrigation at all and they endure our long, hot summers just fine.  In fact, it’s a greater problem if the Oats are over-watered. If watered regularly and year round, a greater percentage of Oats seeds will germinate, thus plenty of seedlings develop.  This might be desirable in a spot where immediate erosion control is desired, but probably not for most home garden situations.  I remove those seedlings which grow in unwanted places in my gardens,

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…but I haven’t found the Inland Sea Oats particularly troublesome to control.   This grass tolerates a variety of soil types and transplants easily.   Just recently, I separated and transplanted a group of three from another mature cluster into a spot which gets little direct sun.

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Peeky looking for now, they’ll return with full vigor in spring.  Inland Sea Oats perform best in shade or part-shade.  They tend to fry when planted in full Texas sun, though in northern latitudes, the sun isn’t quite so unrelenting.  It’s good to have a lovely and reliable shade plant, so use it in those spots where many plants won’t thrive–you’ll always be happy with Oats in a shady spot.   Beth at Plant Postings in Wisconsin recently profiled Northern Sea Oats (another common name) for her “plant of the month” choice. It’s always interesting visiting a garden with a different climate and soil composition to review how a plant fares.  C. latifolium is as gorgeous and valuable in Wisconsin as it is here in Texas. It’s a fabulous grass for many places.

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As summer wanes and the days shorten, the seeds of Inland Sea Oats transform from the their summer vivid green,P1040916.new

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…to the autumn’s toasty beige.

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I think my favorite part of that transition is during the actual color change,

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–some seed heads are green and some are tan.  It reminds me of a lizard in mid-transformation from green to brown.  I really like that.

Once the seeds have morphed to autumn beige, Inland Sea Oats is even more striking in the garden.

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Until a hard freeze ushers winter dormancy, the foliage remains green, though some yellowing of individual blades of grass is normal. Also in late fall/early winter, the seeds begin dispersal, either because of critter munching or seeds dropping.  The seed heads end up as little inverted “Vs”s atop the grass blades.

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Inland Sea Oats has so many good qualities, besides its good looks and its water-wise and hardy nature.  Highly deer resistant,  (go eat something else, Bambi), it’s the host plant to several butterfly species.  The stalks with the seed heads are also quite pretty in flower arrangements.  I’m not one to pick flowers from my gardens for indoors, but on the rare occasions that I do, I always add some Inland Sea Oats to pop into the vase. Whether the seed heads are vivid green or tawny-tan, the stalks add beauty and interest to any flower arrangement.

So there you have it:  a year in the life of the Inland Sea Oats.  A grass that most gardeners (and their garden wildlife visitors) will enjoy.

Spring,

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Summer,

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Fall,

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Winter.

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Foliage Follow-Up, November 2014: The Non-Freeze

My gardens are slowing down in preparation for winter, but haven’t experience the frosty nip that was promised earlier in the week. Thank goodness!  I’m not quite ready to give in to the dark season.  Not Just Yet.

Focusing on mid-November foliage, I’m joining with Pam at Digging for Foliage Follow-Up.

In one corner of my garden with dappled light most of the day and some direct sun off and on, are a couple of favorite foliage vignettes.  One such is of Iris straps, Blue MistflowerConoclinium coelestinum,  and cobalt-blue containerized succulent Ghost Plant, Graptopetalum paraguayense.

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Planted alongside that mix are several  Dianella or Variegated Flax Lily, Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’. IMGP1865.new

I love the wide, grass-like foliage of Dianella with its snazzy white stripes down the sides.IMGP2017.new

When a freeze was predicted this week, I covered the Dianella, though my concerns were unwarranted.  Last winter, I covered all of my Dianella each time the temperature sank into the ’20s, especially for extended periods. They soldiered through winter like the garden champs they are and thrived in our long, hot summer. Dianella nicely combine with Iris and Soft-leaf Yucca straps,IMGP1864.new

…as well as with these snuggly Love-Critters.

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Ghost Plant is unkillable:  it goes for months without water, isn’t fazed by freezes (or at least mine haven’t been), can re-grow if a stem is broken.

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My kinda plant.

Maiden GrassMiscanthus sinensis ‘Adagio’ is in its glory now.IMGP1868.new

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The beautiful seed heads reflect the sun as it briefly peeked through our mostly cloudy week.

Toasty-seeded Inland Sea OatsChasmanthium latifolium and the green swath of Cast Iron Plant,  Aspidistra elatior are a striking pair.

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Added to this scene is Purple HeartSetcreasea pallida, which dramatizes that story a bit.

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Big MuhlyMuhlenbergia lindheimeri and Soft-leaf YuccaYucca recurvifolia  are cool weather troopers.IMGP2399.new

Graceful while also lending structure to the garden, these two are beautiful companions throughout the year, hot or cold.

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I took this photo of  evergreen Yarrow, Achillea millefolium and Chile Pequin, Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum,  just before what was supposed to be a freezing night.  I figured the fruits wouldn’t survive the plunging temperatures and wanted to record them for posterity.IMGP2529.new

I’m happy to report that the fruits are still available for dining by interested birds.

I love the twisty-curvy foliage of Corkscrew RushJuncus effusus spiralis, silhouetted over a pair of Mexican FeathergrassNassella tenuissima.

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Finally, the leaf change is beginning on my Red Oak, Quercus coccinea.

IMGP2641.new Here in Central Texas, our tree foliage color change occurs later than that of our northern kin, but beautiful and appropriate for our climate and region. There will be more of this in the weeks to come.

Digging hosts Foliage Follow-Up–drop in for a look at November foliage fanfare.

Foliage Follow-up, May 2014

We’ve received a little rain here in Austin, Texas and so continue our verdant spring before the summer heat fries everything in the garden.  I particularly like this lush threesome of the glossy, dark green-leafed Star Jasmine vine, Trachelospermum jasminoides, fronted by the soft, graceful Inland Sea Oats, Chasmanthium latifolium, further fronted by an arching American BeautyberryCallicarpa americana.

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I’ll remove the Inland Sea Oats next year to give the Beautyberry room to grow. For now, I  like the array of foliage these three plants provide in this shady spot.

Sedum, Sedum potosinum, is delightful in the garden; its delicate, fleshy foliage hugs the ground and rocks as it spreads.  It is attractive before it blooms,

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and during bloom time.

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All of the Fennel plants in my gardens are still gorgeous this May.

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I’ve seen a few butterfly caterpillars chomp, chomp, chomping, but apparently not enough to eat the Fennel to the ground.

This Pale-leaf Yucca, Yucca pallida,  

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echoes the yellow of its home with stripes along the edges of its leaves.

I fell in love with the Corkscrew Rush, Juncus effusus, when I visited another garden.

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It requires more watering than I typically tolerate from my plants (twice/week during our summers), but I don’t consider that onerous and this sedge plant is a fun addition to my gardens.

I enjoy the play of late afternoon light on this Soft-leaf Yucca, Yucca recurvifolia.

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I have several of these non-native yuccas in my gardens and appreciate their tolerance of my somewhat heavy soil.

The pairing of the bright green, tropical foliage of the not-yet-in-bloom Turk’ s Cap, Malvaviscus arboreus, with the gray-green, fuzzy Heartleaf Skullcap, Scutellaria ovata ssp. bracteata, was a gardening serendipity that I’ve encouraged.

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Finally, there’s little but foliage going on here–and such a nice variety of shape and form, if not color.

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At the far left is the soft, silvery Mexican Feathergrass, Nassella tenuisima, with spiky  Iris flanking its right.  A tiny-leafed, ground-hugging Thyme completes the trio.  Two plants from the Malvaceae family, Lemon Rose MallowHibiscus calyphyllus, and Turk’s Cap fill the center/right section of the photo.  The foliage of those two are similar–wide and heart-shaped.  To the right and front of the photo, Fall Aster, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium and Texas Craglily, Echeandia texensis, both sport foliage which contrasts with the tropical looking Malvaceae plants: the Craglily’s slender grass-like lily leaves and the perennial aster’s narrow leaves.

Actually, if you look closely, you can see some blooms–at the top-center of the plant group is a cluster of Heartleaf Skullcap–its blue/purple flowers and fuzzy, gray-green foliage in total contradiction to everything else.

Thanks to Pam at Digging for hosting the May salute to foliage.