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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.

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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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Thursday - January 20, 2011

From: Grinnell, IA
Region: Midwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Short to Medium Height Grasses for Iowa
Answered by: Mike Tomme

QUESTION:

What short to medium height native grass can be planted in late fall at the same time I sow my wildflower seed?

ANSWER:

The challenge for you is not going to be deciding what to plant, it will be what not to plant. Many grasses will do well in Iowa.

Here's how you can come up with a list: go to Wildflower.org, hover the cursor over Explore Plants until a drop down menu appeared then clicked on Plant Database. Scroll down to Combination Search, select Iowa as the state, select Grass/Grass Like from the drop down menu under Habit. For Height, let's select 0 - 1 ft. and 1 - 3 ft. Let's assume you will be planting in full sun and your soil is dry. Make those selections in the search criteria, then submit the search.

When I did this, it returned 17 results. If you change the assumptions about sun and soil you may come up with more or less.

You can then click on the individual species to see pictures, descriptions, etc. of the plants the search identified.

Probably the best way to narrow your list of candidates down is to see what seeds are available. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center maintains a list of suppliers of native plants and seeds here: Native Plant Suppliers Directory. One seed supplier is Native American Seed. They have a great selection of grass seeds and grass seed mixtures.

Late fall is an ideal time to sow your grass seed.

Here are some examples:


Aristida purpurea


Bouteloua curtipendula


Bromus kalmii

 

 

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