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Known as River Oats or Northern Sea Oats, this US native produces a multitude of beautiful pale green seed heads in midsummer that are reminiscent of the sea oats found at the beach. Panicles drop under their weight and look absolutely beautiful when backlit by the sun. Chasmanthium latifolium is a tall ground cover that grows in just about any situation: sun, shade, moist or dry. This ornamental native grass is a great landscape solution for areas of dry shade. When planting, keep in mind that River Oats will reseed, so place it in appropriate locations. When planted in sun, this plant may grow taller than four feet.
During a brisk, wintry walk in a Michigan garden, one realizes that, of the few elements of winter interest in the garden, ornamental grasses stand tall. There has been much said and written about the extraordinary versatility of the landscape use of ornamental grasses. Grasses add stature, texture, movement and fall and winter interest to any garden. Chasmanthium latifolium, commonly known as northern sea oats, is no exception. With its bamboo-like foliage and delicate inflorescences, chasmanthium is certain to interest gardeners (Figure 1A and B).Chasmanthium latifolium is native to the United States and is naturalized from New Jersey to Pennsylvania in the Northeast to Texas and northern Florida in the Southeast. Chasmanthium is hardy to USDA Zones 4 to 9 and is often found naturalized in shady areas in forests, near rivers and in flood plains. Although the common name, northern sea oats, suggests its proximity to water, the natural habitat of chasmanthium is inland.
A close but distinct relative, southern sea oats (Uniola paniculata) is distributed throughout the sand dunes of the southern United States and is used in dune restoration and erosion control projects. Great for use in native gardens and naturalized areas, chasmanthium has also been used successfully in urban landscapes and charming containers. Chasmanthium is of particular interest to many gardeners due to its moderate height (2 to 5 feet), deer resistance and its adaptability to shady locations. Many popular ornamental grasses are full sun plants and become floppy in shady areas, while chasmanthium thrives in part shade. As with many other ornamental grasses, chasmanthium is fairly easy to maintain and adds great value to gardens in return for the little time invested in plant care and maintenance. Its attractive inflorescences can be used in fresh or dried form in flower arrangements.Container production of chasmanthium is as easy as growing and maintaining it in the garden. Consumers prefer buying plants in flower, and ornamental grasses follow suit. While some grasses may be difficult to produce and market in flower, chasmanthium can be easily forced. At Michigan State University, we conducted container production trials on chasmanthium, and our research-based results and production notes are narrated below. (Source: www.greenhousegrower.com)