Ornamental grasses (sometimes referred to as ornamental plants) are a common sight in gardens nowadays, because they beautify the landscape, and require very little care and maintenance. As compared to other garden plant varieties, ornamentals can survive well in poor soil conditions. For this reason, they are also grown to prevent soil erosion. Most species are also resistant to pests and diseases. Ornamentals can be grown as landscape specimens, as well as ground cover on steep grounds where other plants and grass can be difficult to maintain. Their foliage comes in assorted colors, from blue, green, red, and can even be variegated. Common examples of ornamental grasses include California fescue, deer grass, tufted hair-grass, blue oat grass, pampas grass, red fountain grass, etc. These grasses can either be rhizomatous or clump forming and can even be grown from seed. Rhizomatous grasses usually grow close to the ground, can act as ground covers, resisting the invasion of weeds. Clump forming grasses grow around a perimeter and can be transplanted every couple of years. Propagating these grasses is not very difficult, if you do it the right way and at the right time. Ideally, ornamental grasses should be transplanted in late spring to early summer, because cold weather sees a decline in root growth.
Dividing and Transplanting Ornamental Grasses
- Once you have chosen the grass you wish to transplant, chop off its stem and leaves, so only one-third of the original length remains. Some ornamentals have sharp edges, so make sure you wear gloves to prevent getting nicked.
- With a spade, loosen and push the soil around the grass. Make sure you dig into the soil at least a foot away from the base of the grass.
- Using a shovel, loosen the soil around the grass clump and root ball. Keep digging and shoveling till the root ball comes clean of the soil. Hold the base of the plant and give a firm pull, and remove the plant, along with the root ball from the ground.
- Divide the grass clump and root ball using a sharp ax. You must include both roots and live grass sections in every division. Discard all dead roots. Keep the newly cut grass in shade, so the root ball does not dry out, till it is ready to be replanted at the chosen site.
- Choose the new planting location for your ornamental. Know the height of the grass you will be planting, and how far does it spread at maturity, and choose the site accordingly.
- Dig a hole in the ground in this new site, at least 2 feet deep, or at the same depth from where you extricated the chosen grass. Mix the soil that you have unearthed with compost.
- Insert the root ball in to the prepared hole. Loosen the roots and spread them outwards towards the edges of the hole.
- Fill the soil and compost mixture back into the hole, patting it gently, but firmly with your foot or a spade as you fill.
- Once the hole is covered up, sprinkle fertilizer around the base of your newly transplanted grass, as per the manufacturer's instructions.
- Water the new transplanted grass immediately after planting. Put a hose with a small trickle of water at the base of the plant. Make sure the water seeps right through to the base of the hole. You need to irrigate it regularly for a couple of weeks to promote root growth.
- A layer of mulch, three inches in thickness, comprising bark or wood chips at the base of the newly transplanted clump will keep weeds away, prevent soil erosion, and lock in moisture.