By Bonnie L. Grant
Many of the ornamental grasses are suited for dry, sunny locations. Gardeners with predominantly shady locations that yearn for the movement and sound of grasses may have trouble finding suitable specimens. Tufted hairgrass, however, is perfectly suited for such locations. Ornamental hairgrass is ideal for shady and partially sunny locations in cool to temperate climates.
What is Tufted Hairgrass?
Now that you know it exists, what is tufted hairgrass (Deschampsia cespitosa)? It’s an elegant ornamental tussock form which grows in mound shaped clumps. Borders or containers are excellent tussock grass uses.
This cool season perennial plant produces flowers from June until September. The plant is 2 to 4 feet tall with a similar spread. The flowers are feather panicles with hairy seed heads and may be brown, green or gold, depending upon cultivar.
Tussock grass care is minimal and the plant provides an easy to grow mass of fine texture with cloudy upright flowers.
Tussock Grass Uses
Tufted hairgrass is used as forage for ruminants and grazing animals. It is also food for smaller animals and birds, and makes a good habitat for the same.
The plant is also useful as a barrier to erosion and a reclamation species for overgrazed, heavily mined and disturbed natural sites. The plant’s resistance to toxins makes growing tufted hairgrass useful for reintroducing plant life.
As an ornamental plant, you can take advantage of the new cultivars, which provide variant color, texture and size.
Ornamental Hairgrass Varieties
The new hybrids of the native hairgrass challenge the common appearance of the plant. Some of the new varieties are small and perfect for container gardening. These include:
- Northern Lights is only a foot tall and has white variegated leaves with a pink blush on the edges.
- Tautraeger grows up to 2 feet tall and has dark green foliage with bluish flowers.
- Goldschleier is a similar size and bears golden panicles.
- Schottland is 2 to 3 feet tall and bluish green, while Bronzeschleier has finer foliage and yellow blooms.
Tussock Grass Care
Provided the grass is installed in a suitable location, it needs minimal maintenance. Choose moist soil in light to medium shade for growing tufted hairgrass. The plant is tolerant to saline and alkaline soils. It also thrives in poorly drained, boggy and well-drained soils.
Hairgrasses produce new growth in spring. The best way to remove old blades is to comb through the grass with your fingers. This restores the appearance of the plant and allows air and light to get into the center.
It is not necessary to fertilize the plant but an application of organic mulch around the root zone will gradually increase nutrient content available to the roots.
Water deeply and then allow the soil to dry completely to a depth of at least 3 inches.
Ornamental hairgrass is resistant to most pests and diseases.