Adorned with blue-green foliage, blue oat grass is an ornamental plant for growing in gravel borders and garden beds. This article gives an insight into how to grow and care for this grass.
Planning a flower garden is not just about selecting vibrant colored blooms or larger flowers. It also encompasses growing the green component in landscape designs. Evergreen grass, shrubs, and trees are equally important in creating a color pattern in the yard. One of the species of grass apt for growing in borders, garden beds, and containers, is blue oat grass. The appealing features of this grass variety are its spiky appearance and showy foliage.
Belonging to the grass family Poaceae, the scientific name of blue oat grass is Helictotrichon sempervirens. Its identifiable feature is the blue foliage that measures 0.6 cm in width and 50-60 cm in length. Its flowering period starts around late spring or early summer. Cream colored flowers are borne in a panicle inflorescence that shoots higher than the foliage (approximately 50-100 cm). However, this ornamental grass type is grown exclusively for its bluish-green leaves, and not for its spikes.
Growing and Care
The perfect growing time for this grass is spring. It is slightly larger than blue fescue grass in leaf and plant size. It is adaptable to USDA hardiness zone 3 and above. Hence, it is a preferred option for growing in extremely cold conditions. Being a hardy species that grows well in somewhat poor to medium fertile soil, it does not require preparation of garden soil. Following are some gardening instructions for planting blue oat grass.
Ideal Soil Condition
As long as the soil is moist and well-drained, this grass performs well in any type of soil. However, solve any soil drainage problems before introducing it in your garden. Make sure that the soil pH falls within the near neutral range of 6.5 to 7.5. If possible, select garden areas that receive full sunlight, or at least partial shade conditions for maintaining the health of this grass.
Similar to other ornamental grass types, this grass too, is sold in clumps, in nursery and plant supply centers. You can also sow the seeds in controlled conditions, and transplant the seedlings to the garden soil. If you already have 2-3 year old blue oat grass in your garden, consider dividing the root ball of the mother plant into smaller sections during spring for propagation purpose.
Dig a planting hole that is larger than the root ball. You can add a scoop of compost in the soil. Spread the roots gently and place the grass clumps in it. Press the soil around the grass and water it deeply. While planting in groups, the space between grasses should be 45 cm or less. A simple trick to determine the ideal spacing of this grass variety is to divide the plant spread at maturity by half.
Maintenance for this grass is very low after the plant establishes itself to the growing conditions. Irrigate this grass regularly, but do not over water as this increases the chances of root rot and crown rot. Watering should be done deeply once every two weeks, or according to prevailing conditions. Avoid stressful growing conditions to reduce plant problems and disease infestations.
Pruning this grass is done easily with the help of a garden rake or any other suitable garden tool. The best method is to remove the brown foliage and uproot old stems in early spring or late winter, when the plant is in a dormant state. This not only gives a cleaner look, but also conserves nutrients, thereby preparing the plant for a new growth of leaves in the growing season.
Grow blue oat grass in groups and add seasonal interests to your yard, especially in summer and fall months. After growing it in your yard for one growing season, allow the seed heads to dry on the plant itself. When they are dried completely, collect them for use in propagation. This way, you can have a supply of seeds for planting in other areas of the garden.