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

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Sunday - December 13, 2009

From: Fredericksburg, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Native Indiangrass as a hedge
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hi Mr. Smarty Plants, I would like to create a grass hedge as a foundation planting for a portion of our garden. One side of the planting is a concrete sidewalk to our garden shed, the other side will eventually consist of a bed of native flowering plants. Indiangrass appears to have the look we're after, but I'm afraid it will look sparse in places and may tend to spread. We're also concerned that Indiangrass won't hold an erect posture and will lay down over the walkway. I would really appreciate your opinion. Thank you very much, you're a key resource for us.

ANSWER:

This Mr. Smarty Plants happens to love Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass) and it would make a lovely hedge for about four months of the year!  It is not evergreen and right now in December after the first hard freeze it is tall, brown and brittle.  It will stay that way until spring (March or April) when new green shoots will begin to emerge from the roots.  It will reach its maximum height and fullness around August and September and then become brown and brittle again after the first hard freeze.  It is beautiful and should remain tall and erect and you should be able to contain any spreading, but there is going to be a lot of the year when you aren't going to have a real green grass hedge in place—just brown, brittle stems.  If you can live with that, then it would be a wonderful grass to use. 

There are some alternatives, however. None of the true grasses are going to be evergreen, but you might consider the grass-like Nolina texana (Texas sacahuista).  It is not as tall as Indiangrass (only 2 to 2.5 feet) but it is evergreen, looks like a grass and has an attractive bloom.  It would remain in place as a low evergreen hedge all year long.  Another possibility would be  Leucophyllum frutescens (Texas barometer bush).  It grows generally 2 to 5 feet high and 4 to 6 feet in width, but can be shaped by pruning.  The common version has gray-green leaves, but there are also varieties with very green leaves.  It also has dark pink or purple flowers. Still another evergreen shrub that would make a nice hedge is Morella cerifera (wax myrtle).

Here are photos from our Image Gallery:


Sorghastrum nutans

Nolina texana

Leucophyllum frutescens

Morella cerifera

 

 

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