En EspaŅol

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?

Share

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
2 ratings

Sunday - December 06, 2009

From: Hampton Bays, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: When to plant grasses on Long Island, NY
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants; Are there any grass seeds that I can plant NOW, early December, on Long Island, NY? The planting environment is on and near a sandy bluff on a bayshore, where it can be windy at times, and salty air from the bay. For example, can I plant Little Bluestem and/or Big Bluestem seeds now? Are there any other grasses that I can plant as seeds now? Thank you. Richard

ANSWER:

It probably won't hurt to sow your grass seeds now, but they will most likely lie dormant and not germinate until the onset of the warm spring rains.  Sea Grant New York and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County has an excellent article that recommends planting native grasses in the spring.  Indeed, Cornell University and St. Lawrence County Extension recommend sowing switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) when the soil temperature has reached 60° F in the spring.  Generally, seeds do well if they are sown when they would fall naturally from the plant. For most of the species listed below that would have been late summer or early fall.  However, at least some of those seeds that naturally fall from the plants no doubt become food for small rodents and birds.  So, your best bet for commercially purchased seeds, it would seem, is to sow them in the spring when they have a chance to germinate quickly.

It sounds as if you need to consider grasses with some salt tolerance.  New York City Department of Parks & Recreation lists the following grasses as salt tolerant:

Ammophila breviligulata (American beachgrass)

Distichlis spicata (saltgrass) and here are photos and more information

Panicum amarum (bitter panicgrass) and here are photos

Spartina alterniflora (smooth cordgrass)

Spartina patens (saltmeadow cordgrass) and here are photos and more information

Spartina pectinata (prairie cordgrass)

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass) moderately salt tolerant

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Not on their list:

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem) moderately salt tolerant

Andropogon virginicus (broomsedge bluestem) salt tolerant

Deschampsia cespitosa salt tolerant

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass) is on the Native Plant Society of New Jersey's List of Coastal Plants—Salt Tolerant.

Here are some photos from our Image Gallery:


Ammophila breviligulata

Spartina alterniflora

Spartina pectinata

Panicum virgatum

Schizachyrium scoparium

Andropogon gerardii

Andropogon virginicus

Deschampsia cespitosa

Sorghastrum nutans
 

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Native Desert Willow and bunchgrass for Lubbock TX
July 29, 2013 - We live in Lubbock and have decided to try to make our front yard as native as possible. It has been a very difficult process finding native species locally (even the local Aggie nursery sells a lot ...
view the full question and answer

Plants for steep bank in Pennsylvania
July 12, 2011 - What do I do with a very steep bank with hard clay soil to stop erosion and to look nice. Is there a ground cover that would help?
view the full question and answer

Need to stabilize a south facing slope in Henderson, NC
April 30, 2010 - Hi, I have a south facing slope that is heavy clay with rock under it. It gets a lot of sun. I have planted a few bushes and some ground cover, but with all the snow and rain we had this past winter, ...
view the full question and answer

Developing fields with native plants from New Egypt NJ
July 24, 2013 - I have several acres of fields that I want to develop with native grasses and flowers. I would like to know the best time to mow the fields so that bushes and volunteer trees don't take over and that...
view the full question and answer

What flowers will ducks and swans not eat?
January 11, 2009 - I live by ducks and swans. They love eating my flowers. Any suggestions on what flowering plants they won't eat?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center