This shade-tolerant, perennial ornamental grass provides outstanding interest and texture all year long. A true grass, northern sea oats forms a clump 3 to 4' tall with dark green, bamboo-like leaves and seed heads resembling oats that emerge in June. The slivers of jagged-edged seed heads drooping from slender branches softly rustle and shimmer in the breeze, morphing from green to slightly pinkish to bronze over the growing season, with the overall color of the plant changing to tan by winter. This durable grass excels in a wide range of average to moist soils and in part or full shade. A site in full sun is fine as long the grass receives enough water. While northern sea oats colonizes readily by rhizomes and seeds, spread may be reduced by removing the seed heads in the fall. Leave the foliage for small animals and birds to use for nesting and cover. Often found in woods, on rocky slopes, and along streams in eastern, midwestern, and southern states, northern sea oats is ideal for shade gardens, perennial borders, native plant gardens, edges of water gardens, and containers. It helps control erosion, especially on slopes, and it tolerates black-walnut proximity and road salt. In some conditions, it might need staking during storms or high winds. However, if the stems do fall, bring them inside for a fresh floral arrangement.
Height: 3-4’ tall and 2-3’ wide.
Sun: Full sun to shade.
Soil: Well-drained sandy, loamy, or clay soils with consistent moisture. Requires less water in shade.
Wildlife Value: Host plant for larvae of northern pearly eye, pepper-and-salt skipper, Bell’s roadside skipper, and bronze roadside skipper. Small animals and birds eat the seeds and use the plant for cover, and birds like the stem and leaves for nests. Deer and mammals don’t usually browse this plant.
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