Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on February 25, 1999. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Options Available In Ornamental Grasses
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Ornamental grasses can really make a difference in our landscapes. The varieties abound for just the right look and location.
Dwarf sweet flag, mostly known as Japanese sweet flag, is one of the prettiest grasses we can use in the landscape. Although new in our local markets, this grass is drawing increased attention.
Proven Winners, which brought us plants like Surfinias, MillionBells and Tapien verbenas, has done a lot to stir the pot on the sweet flag grasses. Two years ago in Fall Magic promotion, they brought us Acorus gramineus Ogon, or Golden Japanese Sweet Flag. Last year, they switched to White Japanese Sweet Flag, or Acorus gramineus variegatus.
The acorus calamus may be the best known sweet flag sedges with its larger leaves that give off an aromatic scent. The foliage and rhizomes are used today to make the Oil of Calmus.
The acorus gramineus group is not nearly so aromatic, but they do give us some great new choices in addition to the liriopes. The Ogon is my favorite because of the golden color combined with green variegation.
This grass reaches 10 to 12 inches in height and is beautiful when grown in front of evergreen junipers or hollies. They also combine well with impatiens. Those of you looking for a great plant that tolerates wetter conditions may find this one to your liking, yet it performs well in regular landscape beds.
Many of you may like the variegatus that is white (instead of gold) with the green variegation. I have also seen solid green cultivars locally.
The Japanese sweet flag spreads from the tips of rhizomes similar to the way an iris spreads. This gives you the option of using it as a ground cover. It does best if it gets a little filtered shade during the heat of the day.
Plant yours so that the rhizome is showing slightly above the soil line then water thoroughly. Since it likes moist soil, be sure and apply a good layer of mulch and water during droughty periods.
While liriope needs cutting back of ugly leaves virtually every year, these sweet sedges have a tendency to keep the leaves attractive for more than a year. From time to time you will want to trim leaves that have lost their effectiveness. Do so in late winter before new growth resumes.
It is also recommended to feed with a balanced 13-13-13 fertilizer at a rate of more than 2 pounds per 100 square feet of bed space in late winter or early spring.
Another grass or sedge in a different family is called carex. Carex morrowii, or Japanese sedge, seemed to be widely available two years ago but less recently. It is a worthy landscape plant, and I suspect sales were slim because gardeners just hadn't tried it.
Carex morrowii loves moist, shady locations and really gives us a new choice when compared to liriope. It also is about 10 inches tall and really graceful in habit and texture. It has basically the same cultural requirements as the sweet flag. I bet you will see it in the market again this spring, so why not give both of these new grasses a try?