En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - July 23, 2009

From: rockland, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Looking for a tall ornamental grass native to Massachusetts.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills


I am looking for a tall (4-8 ft) ornamental grass, native to Massachusetts/ New England. It needs to be tolerant of moist to wet soil, and preferably colorful. Thanks for your help.


We applaud your preference for native plants. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is committed to the care and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown.

The use ornamental grasses in landscapes is gaining in popularity, and this site from the University of Illinois Extension has a lot of information about their selection and use. However, be aware that several of the genera that they mention are non natives (Pennisetum, Miscanthus, Molina, Lagurus and, Briza).

To find some possibilities for you, lets go to our Native Plant Database and scroll down to the Combination Search box and make these selections; select Massachusetts under State, Grass/grass-like under Habit, Perennial under Duration, Sun under Light requirement, and Moist under Soil Moisture. Click the "submit combination search" button and you will get a list of 56 native plants in Massachusetts that match these characteristics. Clicking on the name of each plant will bring up its NPIN page that contains a description of the plant, its habitat and growing conditions, along with images. 

Here are a few to consider:

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem) 

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass)

Calamagrostis canadensis (bluejoint)

You can make your own selections and adjust the list by altering the choices.

You might contact the Massachusetts Horticulture Society for further assistance.

Andropogon gerardii

Schizachyrium scoparium

Sorghastrum nutans

Panicum virgatum



Calamagrostis canadensis



More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Mexican Feathergrass not Blooming in San Diego
September 22, 2015 - Hello, I planted seven Mexican Feathergrass plant about four months ago and only one of them has got the "feathers" at the tip of its grasses. The others are growing nice and tall as well, but not f...
view the full question and answer

Trimming inland sea oats from Waco TX
January 30, 2013 - Re: Inland Sea Oats and trimming back in early spring "It passes through most of winter a soft brown, but becomes tattered and gray by February, a good time to cut it back to the basal rosette." ...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a property near a conservation area in MD
July 18, 2011 - Can you tell me what native plants and the type of landscaping that would be good to plant in front of a forest conservation area that is on a steep hill behind our future house? It is located in Manc...
view the full question and answer

Erosion controlling Groundcover for Phenix AL
March 30, 2014 - Hi I am trying to find a grass or ground cover to control erosion on firing range berms which are 1:1 grade on a firing range outside of Phenix City AL. Sandy clay soil, direct sunlight almost all day...
view the full question and answer

When and how to mow native grass in Texas
February 27, 2010 - We live on a ranch near Kerrville. The grass is sparse KR, purple three-awn and some Texas wintergrass. How and when is the best way and time to mow this native grass?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center