Have you heard of Inland Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)? It is my new favorite grass! I have always loved the look of ornamental grasses mixed into landscaped areas. I often like to use them in container pots as well.
However, the one drawback with ornamental grasses is they typically need full sun to look their best. In my yard dotted with large live oak trees, a full sun spot is tough to find! That is not the case with Inland Sea Oats. This grass performs just as beautifully in shade. In fact, it is the perfect plant to incorporate into a shady spot of your yard.
Other names for Inland Sea Oats
A particular species of plant can have many common names but only one scientific name.
The scientific name for Inland Sea Oats is Chasmanthium latifolium. That is a mouthful, but a helpful name to write down before heading to the nursery to make sure you buy the right plant! Plant labels typically always include the scientific name.
The scientific name helps you distinguish it from regular Sea Oats (Uniola paniculata), which grow in sand dunes along subtropical coastal areas. Inland Sea Oats gets its common name because they grown inland vs. along the beach!
Other common names for Chasmanthium latifolium include Northern Oats, Wild Oats, River Oats, Upland Oats, and Indian Wood Oats.
Where do Inland Sea Oats grow?
According to Wildflower.org, this grass is native to a large area of the United States spanning from the Great Plains to the East Coast! You can find it growing in a whopping 29 states. If your state is on this list, there is a good chance you can find the grass at a nursery that specializes in native plants. Here are some tips for finding native plants near you.
- District of Columbia
- North Carolina
- New Jersey
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
What do Inland Sea Oats look like?
Inland Sea Oats are a clumping / bunch grass that can grow between 2-4 feet tall. Its most unique characteristic is the beautiful drooping seed heads that have a chevron pattern. The seed heads are green until late summer when they start to turn a pretty light brown.
This native plant is often looking its best in the heat of summer when other plants are fading! By late fall the rest of the plant turns to a golden light brown color.
5 Reasons to Grow Inland Sea Oats in Your Yard
This past year, I added a single plant to a shady corner of my yard near the Turk’s Cap. It has done great and I am excited to add more. Since it is deer resistant, I’d even like to try it in the greenbelt area behind our fence along with my wildflower garden. It also would look great planted in a pot! Here are five reasons why it is worth trying in your yard.
1. It grows well in the shade
This is what really sets Chasmanthium latifolium from other ornamental grasses. Most grasses need full sun to look their best. This is one of the few that looks amazing in shade. It is great for planting under a tree or along the side of the house.
It can handle sun, but it will need more water to stay looking good. If you are unsure where to put it in your yard, try it out in a pot first along with some flowering plants for a fun container plant.
2. It provides year round interest
A beautiful green throughout the spring and summer, the grass really starts to get interesting in late summer / early fall when its seed heads turn from green to golden light brown. They really pop against the green grass.
The rest of the plant turns a pretty light brown during winter, providing year round interest in your yard. It would add some nice contrast planted along with evergreen plants. I’ve heard the seed heads are great additions to flower arrangements so I’m excited to give that a try!
3. It is a low maintenance grass
In addition to being able to handle a range of sun conditions, it can tolerate a range of soil conditions as well, including poorly drained soil. Inland Sea Oats are often found along creek beds because they like their feet wet.
4. Inland sea oats provide shelter and food for wildlife
The bunch grass can provide shelter for birds and other small wildlife. The seed heads also provide food for seed eating animals in the winter, so make sure to leave them on the plant all winter long.
5. It is a host plant for several pollinators!
When it comes to adding a new plant to your yard, I always recommend prioritizing larval host plants. Host plants are ones that butterflies and moths choose to lay their eggs and feed their caterpillars. You can read why this is so important in my Top Benefits of Native Plants.
According to wildflower.org, Inland Sea Oats are a host plant for several skippers – a cross between a moth and a butterfly. I learned something new – I had not heard of a skipper before doing my research!
How do you grow Inland Sea Oats?
This clumping grass is easy to grow from transplants. You can also grow it from seed, although I have not tried that yet. The grass is known to spread quickly, which can be a good or bad thing depending on where you plant it! If you want to minimize the spread, the new clump of growth can be pulled up easily. Consider potting it and giving a transplant to a neighbor!
Where can you buy Inland Sea Oats?
Look for Inland Sea Oats at a local nursery that specializes in native plants. Remember to make sure to ask for it by its scientific name (Chasmanthium latifolium). Local native plant societies also have regular plant sales or exchanges. Find a native plant society near you.
You can also buy the seeds from online retailers. My favorite source is Native American Seed. I haven’t tried to grow it from seed, but that is one of my goals for 2021. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Likes moist soil. Water regularly in summer.
Cut back to ground at the end of winter. It is great to leave the seed pods on as long as you can as they provide food for wildlife.
Plant spreads easily and can be propagated by digging up new clumps and transplanting. You can also grow new plants by collecting the seeds in fall.
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