There are few tasks more noble than making a difference for the better. Improving the appearance and hospitality of a little corner of the world is both gratifying and benevolent. Property owners are in a unique position to achieve this by enhancing the landscape with lush and healthy grassland plants.
The texture, diversity and color combinations of grasses can touch the pleasure centers of the brain, pleasing the eyes and lifting the spirit. Five such grasses are particularly striking, not to mention easy to maintain and environmentally friendly. Whether ornamental or cover crops, these grasses will beautify the surrounding countryside.
What Are Grassland Plants?
Grasslands are large, open areas in which grass species flourish. They can be used as pasture for livestock or simply left as natural ecosystems. They may stretch for square miles, like prairies, or be confined. Numerous and diverse, the species of grassland plants represent every region of the world; many different climates; and an assortment of purposes. Although there are many ways to classify grassland plants, the simplest is to divide then between annuals and perennials.
- Annuals grow quickly the first year they are planted, sometimes displaying their color brilliantly.
- Perennials, by contrast, take up to three years to fully develop, largely because these species first establish deep root systems before extending above the ground.
While perennials take longer to mature, they require less care than annuals, many of which need replanting each year to retain the boldness of color.
Top 5 Charming Grassland Plants
1. Bulbous Oat Grass
Known scientifically as arrhenatherum elatius, bulbous oat grass is categorized as low-growing (i.e. under one foot high) and perennial. At its most brilliant in spring and early summer, this grassland plant sports narrow leaves striped in bright green and creamy white.
As summer rolls on, the leaves take on a brown tint and experts recommend trimming this grass beginning in the middle of June. Drought tolerant, bulbous oat grass grows well in a variety of soils.
2. Prairie Dropseed
Prairie dropseed, or sporobolus heterolepis, is also low-growing and perennial. Unlike bulbous oat grass, this grassland plant flourishes in the warmest part of the year, growing best in high-alkaline, drier soils. Remaining fresh and green until October, prairie dropseed then assumes an attractive orange hue.
Flowering stems appear at the peak of summer growth. They display pink and brown tints and emitting an addictive fragrance. Of all the perennial grassland plants, this one takes the longest to establish—up to five years.
3. Indian Grass
At four to eight feet, Indian grass (sorghastrum nutans) grows taller but does well in nearly every soil texture. In the latter part of summer, its clusters open and the stamen anthers release its pollen. Meanwhile, the yellow grass sways gracefully in the breeze.
After this peak performance, the brown seed heads of Indian grass remain throughout the autumn and winter. Indian grass is perfect for attracting a diversity of wildlife, including birds and beneficial insects. It is also an effective agent of erosion control. This grassland plant should be trimmed every spring to accommodate new growth.
Popular as a forage and pasture crop, switchgrass is also appealing for aesthetic reasons. Its endurance against the violence of the elements—heat, cold, flood and drought—is legendary. Soil scientists call it Panicum virgatum.
It’s a warm season grassland plant, switchgrass rises to nearly ten feet, with flat leaf blades and rounded sheaths. Though it takes several years to establish, it is extremely resistant to weeds and can stand for over 20 years without significant reseeding.
5. Purple Millet
One of the most wonderfully arresting grassland plants that can adorn the countryside is purple millet (Pennisetum glaucum). Growing best in well-drained soil under partial shade, purple millet is a medium growing plant that maxes out at five feet.
Its foliage displays hues of deep purple and burgundy, with a texture akin to the coat on a cat. That said, purple millet is known to attract, not repel, all types of birds. Unlike the others on this list, purple millet is an annual grass, but well worth the time and effort of replanting.
Grassland plants are excellent alternatives to the typical sod and turf grass. They are stimulating biodiversity; painting landscapes in an array of colors; and inhibiting the onslaught of weeds and pests.
In short, these grassland plants bring beauty and vigor to the countryside.
The images are from pixabay.com.