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Wednesday - December 22, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Native ornamental grass for part shade in Austin
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Hi. I am looking for a fast-growing hardy ornamental grass that will grow in partial shade in south Austin that is not considered invasive. Unfortunately I purchased a few of the Pennisetum setaceum rubirem and intended to plant them, but have since read that they may be invasive in Austin. Is this true? If so, can you recommend a readily available native variety of hardy, fast growing ornamental grass? I have noticed in the past you make recommendations for plants that are impossible to find. Thanks.


Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' (I couldn't find a variety called 'Rubirem') is a variety of Pennisetum setaceum  (Fountain grass).  Although I couldn't find any references to its invasiveness in Austin or Texas, in particular, it is considered moderately or potentially invasive in Florida and the southern US and invasive in California. You are wise to be cautious about planting it in the Austin area. 

Most of the native grasses do best in full sun, but there are three that can be considered ornamental that will grow in partial shade or shade in the Austin area.  They are:

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) grows in part shade or shade. 

 Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass) will grow in sun, part shade or shade.  Both it and the inland sea oats are warm season grasses and can be planted from seeds or containers in early spring.

Nolina texana (Texas sacahuista) is not truly in the grass family (Family Poaceae), but it is very grass-like and prefers part shade.  It is evergreen; whereas, the two grasses die back in the wintertime.

All three of these should be readily available as plants in nurseries in the Austin area.  Please check our National Suppliers Directory for nurseries in the Austin area that specialize in native plants.  Some of them have web pages with lists of available plants and all of them have telephone numbers to contact them.  Seeds for the two grasses can be purchased online form Native American Seed in Junction.

Here are photos from our Image Gallery:

Chasmanthium latifolium

Sorghastrum nutans

Nolina texana



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