Windmill grass (Chloris spp.) is a perennial found from Nebraska to southern California. The grass has a characteristic panicle with spikelets arranged in a windmill fashion. This makes windmill grass identification fairly easy, especially if site and growing conditions match the plant’s requirements. The panicles, or blooms, are visible from May until the first frosts.
Native species gardeners will want to learn windmill grass information and try this for erosion control, deer resistant planting, and to attract butterflies. That being said, however, windmill grass control is often necessary, as this is a prolific grower.
What is Windmill Grass?
Even wild species aficionados may wonder, “What is windmill grass?” This warm-season grass and member of the Poaceae family has a fibrous root system, which can be divided for propagation and makes an excellent erosion control.
The grass may grow between 6 and 18 inches (15-46 cm.) tall. The flower heads are 3 to 7 inches (8-18 cm.) across and start out reddish but mature to a beige or brown color. The seed head is comprised up of eight spikelets that radiate out from a central stem.
Windmill Grass Information
The plant is dormant in winter and does most of its growth in the springtime. Dried stems in winter provide important forage for birds and other animals. Flowering occurs four to six weeks after germination.
Much of the plant’s population is found in disturbed areas or crop fields. It is a widespread weed in Australia where it takes over and can cause problems with livestock, such as liver problems and even photosensitivity. This potential makes windmill grass control imperative in areas with large cattle populations.
Growing Conditions for Windmill Grass
Windmill grass is not picky about its soil type but does require full to partial sun. This grass actually prefers nutrient poor soil with plenty of sand, rock, or grit. You can find this plant in its native range in sandy ranges, barren wasteland, roads, lawns, and gravel areas.
The best growing conditions for windmill grass are arid, gritty zones with hot summers but plentiful spring rain. It is not particularly weedy in most areas, but parts of Texas and Arizona have found it to be a range pest.
Windmill Grass Control
In very dry areas of the United States, the plant tends to seed and populate turf grasses which will require chemical intervention to protect your chosen species of grass. Windmill grass control may be achieved in turf grass with excellent care and healthy sod. Aerate once per year, water consistently, and fertilize once per year to enforce the health of the sod. This keeps alien species from taking hold.
Mesotione is a chemical which has been shown to achieve control when used on cool season turf. It needs to be sprayed every seven to ten days, three times after green up. Glyphosate provides non-selective control. Apply the chemical every three to four weeks starting with June for best windmill grass control.
Note: Chemical control should only be used as a last resort, as organic approaches are safer and much more environmentally friendly.