Top five native ornamental grasses for Atlanta

Georgia lawns do not have to be all turf grass. There are nice ornamental grass selections available...

Georgia lawns do not have to be all turf grass. There are nice ornamental grass selections available at nurseries and landscaping centers. Many people are now embracing native plants and their contribution to the environment by planting more ornamentals as borders and specimen plants.

Native ornamentals are pretty to look at; plus, they have the added appeal of using less water and needing less fertilizer and maintenance than other types of plants. They also invite many native insects and animals into the landscape, providing food, shelter and cover for many birds and butterflies. These five ornamental plants and grasses are all native to the United States and found in the state of Georgia. In Atlanta, they'll all be interesting choices for your yard, especially if you are using them to bring birds and butterflies into the yard. All of these choices are great for bringing in different varieties of butterflies as both a food source and a larval source.

Bushy bluestem

The bushy bluestem, Andropogon glomeratus, grows 2 to 5 feet high with bold fall and winter colors. It has silver cotton candy-looking flower heads that rest atop blue-green leaves in the summer. These green leaves will turn salmon-orange in the fall and a wild copper in the winter. It has a feathery look and great appeal--one that is widely used in many different settings that need a low-maintenance plant. It is one that you'll never need to mow. It is also a perennial that should be planted in full sun and a moist or wet soil. It attracts butterflies, especially satyrs and skippers. Propagate by seed or by the division of roots. This plant casts seed out in a wide area, so use it in a large-scale meadow or garden plot. In a large pattern planting, this makes a great use of dead pasture space that you'd rather not mow.

Sideoats grama

Sideoats grama, or Bouteloua curtipendula, grows 2 to 3 feet high with purple-tinted spikelets that will appear tan in the fall. Its basal foliage will also change colors, from a green to a purple-red in the fall. It is clump forming, and it is a perennial that should be planted in well-drained soil, dry or moist, and in full sun or partial shade lighting. It will attract birds and butterflies to the yard, so it is useful to have it close to patios, porches or decks. The slightest breeze makes the grass a nice visual, with it appearing as if it is a broom sweeping the air. Propagate by seed or by root division.

Silver beard grass

Silver beard grass, also known as Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana, grows 2 to 3 feet high with dull green panicles that have a waxy white bloom to them. The foliage is in a basal cluster on the plant. This grass is a perennial. This is one of the ornamental grasses that should be in full sun and either a dry or moist soil. It is attractive to satyrs and skipper butterflies. Propagate this grass by seed. While some see it as a weedy plant, it definitely has an interesting look for those who can see how it could be used in a landscape.

Inland sea oats

Inland sea oats, or Chasmanthium latifolium, grows 2 to 4 feet with blue-green foliage and large oat-looking spikelets. It is clump growing, with its foliage turning yellow-gold in the fall. It requires very little maintenance. A perennial, it should be planted in partial shade or full shade, with a moist acidic soil. It attracts butterflies, especially skippers. Propagate by seed or by root division. These are great plants to have as a border to a large pasture, or as a specimen in a large container.

Eastern bottlebrush grass

Eastern bottlebrush grass, Elymus hystrix var. hystrix, grows up to 3 feet high with bristle-tipped seeds on a light green flower cluster. There are leaves that are wide and wavy, and the grass looks similar to its bottlebrush name. It is a perennial, and it prefers to grow in partial shade and with a dry soil. It is a useful addition in theme gardens, as both birds and butterflies use the grass. Propagate the grass by root division or by seed. It has a very light and airy look to it in the yard, and it would be particularly nice next to a deck or patio.

Atlanta landscapers know the importance of native grasses and ornamentals. Check with any of them to see how to incorporate any of the above ornamentals into your own yard.

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