Shade-loving tufted hair grass is a native ornamental grass that adds gorgeous texture to the garden.
Tufted hair grass (Deschampsia cespitosa) is a native ornamental grass that looks gorgeous in garden beds and containers with trailing annuals. Its rolled or pleated leaves grow in tufts with a stiff, wiry appearance. In spring to midsummer, airy panicles of silver-tinted flower heads appear, offering a cloudlike appearance. A dark background in the garden sets off the delicate flowers that have gold, silver, purple, and green tones and turn to yellowish-tan in the fall and winter. This guide covers how to plant and grow tufted hair grass, which differs from many drought-resistant prairie grasses.
Where to Plant Tufted Hair Grass
Often planted in groups or masses in a naturalized landscape, tufted hair grass grows well in partial sun or shade in moist soil. Match the plant to the conditions in your garden, remembering that it will turn brown if allowed to dry out.
Plant tufted hair grass in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 8. Use it in garden beds, containers, and naturalized areas. It grows in sunny and shady areas depending on soil moisture and heat levels. Avoid planting it in sunny, droughty conditions. Take advantage of its preference for partial shade and moist soil, where its late-season gold color can provide winter interest.
How and When to Plant Tufted Hair Grass
Tufted hair grass is a hardy native grass that can be planted whenever the ground is workable and plants are available. Plant it at the depth it grew in the pots, spaced 1 to 2 feet apart in well-draining, moist soil. Apply supplemental water to the new plants the first year, being sure that dry soil receives water in every growing season.
Native plants show growth later than some garden plants, so garden centers may not have them in the spring or early summer. This plant forms clumps and doesn’t self-sow excessively.
Tufted hair grass seed can be sown in a prepared garden bed in spring. Lightly rake the seeds into the soil and water well.
Tufted Hair Grass Care Tips
Tufted hair grass is easy to grow when its basic needs are met.
Choose a spot in partial sun or partial shade. Plant in afternoon shade in southern areas of its range. Although it will grow in full sun in temperate regions, it requires a steady supply of water to do so.
Soil and Water
Although tufted hair grass thrives in moist humus-rich soil, it grows in all types of soil, including clay. This plant requires steady water of about 1 inch a week during the spring and fall growing seasons. In the summer, it is less active and requires only light watering. The plant is dormant in winter and needs no water at all during this period.
Temperature and Humidity
This cool-season grass grows most actively in the spring and fall. It tolerates temperatures from 32°F to 90°F but grows best where the summer temperature doesn’t exceed 68°F. Although it enjoys moist-to-wet soil, it is susceptible to disease in areas of high humidity.
Fertilization is not essential, but an application of an all-purpose, balanced fertilizer as new growth begins benefits the plant. Follow the product instructions for quantity and method.
Cut tufted hair grass back to 4 inches in mid to late winter.
Potting and Repotting
Tufted hair grass is an excellent candidate for container gardens, and it is particularly attractive when planted with companions that trail over the edge of the container. Plant it in a container with adequate drainage holes and filled with potting soil or amended garden soil and position it in an area that receives partial sun.
The plant dies back for the winter and reemerges in spring. It does not require repotting annually.
Pests and Problems
Tufted hair grass is susceptible to several diseases, including rust, leaf spot, and ergot, particularly when grown in areas of high humidity. In addition, aphids and leaf hoppers affect tufted hair grass.
How to Propagate Tufted Hair Grass
Although it is relatively easy to grow tufted hair grass from purchased seeds, harvesting seeds from an existing plant is tricky for the home gardener and yields mixed results.
Instead, the best way to propagate this perennial grass is by dividing mature clumps every 2–3 years. Use a sharp spade to divide a clump into several sections and immediately replant the divisions.
Types of Tufted Hair Grass
Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Bronze Veil’ is a species that is lovely in the border, especially when mass planted. The plants form a low mound of dark green leaves with upright stems bearing tiny, airy flowers in a bronze-green shade that matures to beige. Its effect is light and billowing, which is a delightful contrast to many heavier plants in a garden bed.
Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Northern Lights’ is a variegated cultivar that forms a dense clump up to 16 inches tall with thin, slightly arching, tapered blades that are ¼ inch wide. It is variegated with gray and gold streaks and matures to gold with pinkish tips.
Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Pixie Fountain’ is a dwarf species that grows in dense clumps 1½–2 feet tall and 1–1½ feet wide with silver-green foliage and bright silvery-white flowers that turn a rich brown when mature.
Tufted Hair Grass Companion Plants
Plant turfted hair grass with partial sun or shade-loving perennials such as ferns, hostas, and sedges, many of which thrive in similar conditions to tufted hair grass.
Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum) forms attractive colonies with arching stems. The leaves turn yellow in the fall, creating a bright spot in the garden. Growing 1–3 feet tall in shade and partial sun, this plant is an excellent companion for tufted hair grass. Zones 3–9
Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) is a small (8–12 inches tall) woodland perennial with a white or pink flower in spring. It is frequently visited by butterflies and birds. With heart-shaped, glossy leaves, the plants spread by above-ground runners. The plant is deer and rabbit-resistant. Zones 4–7
Graceful maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum) is a welcome addition to shady gardens; its delicate feathery green foliage can burn in sunny areas. It is a slow-growing fern that grows well in cool, moist soil. Zones 9-10
Also called plantain lily, hostas come in many foliage shapes, colors, textures, and sizes. They’re among the easiest plants to grow and are a perfect addition to any garden. They act as a filler in shade gardens, and some hostas have showy, fragrant flowers. Many hostas enjoy the partial shade and moist soil that tufted hair grass prefers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do deer and rabbits eat tufted hair grass?
It is not one of their favorite foods, but when little else is available, they will nibble on it.
How long does tufted hair grass live?
It is very long lived. Some stands are reportedly more than 30 years old.
How tall does tufted hair grass grow?
The height varies by species, but the range is about 8-60 inches tall.
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