Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

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
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

Can Habiturf™ be hydromulched?
July 28, 2014 - Our lawn was originally planted with "Weeping Love Grass" seed by hydromulching. After 7 years we still have some bare spots. Other types of grass have infiltrated the lawn and that does not matter...
view the full question and answer

Types of Eragrostis lovegrasses that will survive in Northern Wisconsin
May 21, 2007 - I am interested in plains lovegrass, and know that it primarily grows in southern climates. Do you think it could thrive in northern Wisconsin if it is planted in a protected area? Could it survive ...
view the full question and answer

Buffalo grass and other native grass for lawn in Central Texas
March 17, 2008 - Hi, I live in Cedar Park, TX - recently moved to into a newly built house. I wanted to put some native grass (like buffalo) in the back yard. - My back yard has slope (away from house) and front...
view the full question and answer

Need information about grasses for cattle grazing in Weatherford, TX.
September 16, 2012 - Need info on what I can plant for cattle to graze thru winter. grasshoppers and drought have decimated our coastal hay for past 2 yrs.Is there anything we can treat all the weeds with besides chemic...
view the full question and answer

Alternative for HABITURF® in Los Angeles County, CA
December 04, 2014 - The Habiturf brochure has a map indicating appropriate locales for growing this lawn. Excluded from the appropriate range is Southern California, where I live. Is Habiturf not recommended for this reg...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.