Ornamental Grasses for Wet Spots in the Landscape
Over the years we’ve seen many residential property owners fighting with wet spots in the lawn, swampy sections in the garden, and even areas in the landscape that are completely washed away every time it rains. So what can you do to deal with these low spots without breaking the bank?
First things first – define your problem. Is it an issue with soil grade? Do you have an irrigation system that might be leaking? Did a neighbor just finish a major project that changed the way storm waters move or drain in your neighborhood? If you have trouble determining the cause, call your local landscape contractor and ask for a consultation. Many landscape companies offer 1 free consultation for first time clients, while others may charge up to a $50 fee – make sure you shop around for someone with experience at a reasonable price!
For homeowners dealing with naturally occurring wet spots in the landscape and garden that aren’t too close to the home’s foundation, we like to recommend using water tolerant plants as a cost effective way to reduce, control, or eliminate the issue. Ornamental grasses can be a fantastic in this role as they tend to be hardy, low maintenance, and have the flexibility to be either a dramatic element in the landscape, or fade into the background as an accent plant depending on the needs of the homeowner. With an incredible variety of sizes, textures, and colors commercially available, you’re bound to find something to suit your tastes.
Benefits of using Ornamental Grasses in the Landscape
There are a wide variety of commercially available ornamental grasses that are excellent candidates for managing those wet spots in the yard: Why? Because these grasses are:
- Extremely Hardy – Capable of thriving in a wide range of seasonal and environmental conditions.
- Effective Erosion Control – Tough, fibrous roots stabilize the soil, even on steep grades.
- Water Tolerant – Many grasses are tolerant of standing water for varying lengths of time, making them an ideal choice for wet spots in the landscape.
- Natural Water Filters – Grasses act as natural water filters, capturing and removing sediment and chemicals from surface waters before they penetrate into the ground (and our drinking water!)
- 4 Season Attraction – Ornamental grasses are called ‘ornamental’ for a reason! They’re readily available in a wide variety of heights, colors, and textures, many of which change with the seasons or last all year long.
- Low Maintenance – Ornamental grasses require little to no fertilizer, and typically on 1 cut back a year either in the Fall or Spring to remove old stalks to make room for new growth.
We’ve used ornamental grasses in a number of wet sites and spots, everything from rain gardens and bioswales to planting beds and borders around the home! (Tip: They make great quick-growing green screens too!)
Things to Know before Selecting your Ornamental Grass
There’s a vast selection of ornamental grasses available on the commercial market today, coming in all shapes, sizes, and colors – how do you decide what’s right for you? The easiest way to narrow the selection is to determine what environment you need your grass to perform in, and then look for something ideally suited to it. Your local nursery or garden center should be able to help you select something that will thrive in your area without breaking the bank. To help narrow down the list, here’s 5 questions you should ask yourself before choosing an ornamental grass for your landscape.
- How much water will it deal with, and in what way? For example, if you’re looking for a grass that can withstand lots of moving water during a rain storm, you’ll likely want to choose something that’s known for developing a sturdy root system. On the other hand, if your yard is prone to lots of standing water, you’ll want to see how long the grass can tolerate being wet. Some species handle standing water better than others.
- What type of soil do you have? Sandy soils will tend to dry out more quickly, while clay soils are notorious for holding water. For best results, choose a grass that’s known to do well in your soil type.
- Does it need sun or shade? As with all plants, some grasses will perform better in full sun as opposed to shade, and vice versa.
- How much traffic must it withstand? Most ornamental grasses are meant to be just that – ornamental, so placing it in a high traffic area may not be ideal. Consider what your needs are before choosing a plant!
- Do you need a spreading or clumping grass? (And how likely is it to escape?!)
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