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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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Monday - August 17, 2009

From: Simpsonville, SC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Grasses for a wildflower meadow in Greenville, SC
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have been establishing a wildflower meadow in Greenville, SC. Our current wildflowers are: Purple Coneflower Perennial Black-eyed Susans Cardinal Flower Butterflyweed Yarrow Threadleaf Coreopsis Scarlet Beebalm Wild Bergamot Sawtooth & Allegheny Blackberry Baptisia And one Highbush Blueberry And an AMERICAN Wisteria vine on a bird tray feeder. If we need anymore we need to know. But this isn't why I asked you for advice. We have no native grasses in our meadow yet. And fall is around the corner and we would like to know what to do and what grasses we need to get for our meadow to be a proper ecosystem. The meadow is in a large clearing in the middle of the forest with full sun to part shade. The soil is a moist-dry clay-loam. I was reading your how-to articles and realized we needed grass. But we don't know which grasses would tolerate these wildflowers and would support them too. Please help us Mr. Smarty Plants!

ANSWER:

You already have a great start on your wildflower meadow, and have made good choices of native plants. We are assuming you read our How-To Articles on large scale wildflower gardening, Getting Started and Meadow Gardening. You are correct, you will need to supplement your garden with some grasses native to your area, and watch out for woody plants that come in as volunteers and can grow to shade out your flowers and make a thicket instead of a meadow. We are going to go to our Native Plant Database and select grasses suitable for your purposes; some of them will be for sun (6 hours or more of sun a day), some for part shade (2 to 6 hours of sun) and some for shade (less than 2 hours of sun.) There may already be some native grasses in your meadow, if you can identify them and like them, you are ahead of the game, they can stay. If you don't like them, feel they might be invasive or non-native, they need to be pulled out. You can also make your own selections by going to the Native Plant Database, selecting South Carolina on the dropdown menu, then "Grasses" under HABIT. You can go even further and select soil moisture and light requirements, making separate selections for different requirements. You can watch your meadow and observe how much sunlight is on a particular area, see if some of the soil is moist or dry, and narrow your list down.

For our list of suggestions, we are just going to pick some of our favorite grasses that would fit some or all of your specifications. We will check each one we select to assure that it is native to the Greenville County area, so you can be confident that the soils will be appropriate. Follow each plant link to the page on that plant to learn more about growing conditions, propagation, etc.

Grasses for a wildflower meadow in Greenville, SC

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem) - warm season perennial, 4 to 8 ft. tall, medium water use, sun or part shade

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama) - perennial, warm season grass, medium water use, sun or part shade

Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana (silver beardgrass) - perennial, deciduous, 3 to 6 ft. tall, low water use, sun

Carex texensis (Texas sedge) - perennial to 1 ft. tall, medium water use, sun or part shade

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) - perennial, 2 to 4 ft. tall, medium water use, part shade or shade

Muhlenbergia schreberi (nimblewill) - perennial, to 2 ft. tall, part shade or shade

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem) - 18 to 24 inches tall, low water use, sun or part shade

Tridens flavus (purpletop tridens) - perennial to 7 ft. tall, low water use, part shade


Andropogon gerardii

Bouteloua curtipendula

Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana

Carex texensis

Chasmanthium latifolium

Muhlenbergia schreberi

Schizachyrium scoparium

Tridens flavus

 

 

 

 

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