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

Revegetating a hillside in western Washington state
October 10, 2012 - Removing several downed trees across my dock demolished the native plants growing on the hillside and the contractor pulled out their remains. The area faces east on an open freshwater bay. Close to...
view the full question and answer

Plants to prevent creekside erosion in Nacogdoches County, Texas
December 09, 2014 - I am looking for some advice on plants native to Texas that can help prevent erosion. I own a wooded lot with a creek and would like to consolidate the sides of the creek against potential erosion. I...
view the full question and answer

Plants to stabilize sandy slope in Massachusetts
September 23, 2011 - Dear Mr. Smartypants, I am working on a small public housing project in Chelmsford, MA, northwest of Boston. We have a steep, sunny and SANDY slope and I am stumped as to what to recommend that wi...
view the full question and answer

Erosion tolerant plants for shade from Kerrville TX
August 06, 2013 - We have just cleared a lot of cedar out of a small draw and would like to know the best groundcovers, shrubs, etc. to plant to hold the soil. Deep shade most of the day.
view the full question and answer

Trimming of cordgrass plants
November 20, 2007 - We have planted more than 150 cordgrass plants (spartina bakeri) along the edges of the small pond at our condominium complex to try to prevent any further soil erosion between the buildings and the p...
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