Ornamental Hairgrass – Tips For Growing Tufted Hairgrass


By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

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. 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.

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Northern Lights Tufted Hairgrass

Proven Selections
Northern Lights Tufted Hairgrass

  • USDA Hardiness Zones 4-10
  • Height 2-3 Feet Tall
  • Spread 12 Inches Wide
  • Light Requirement is Part Sun to Sun

Northern Lights Tufted Hairgrass (Deschampsia caespitosa) is one of the prettiest cool-season ornamental grasses. The variegated blades turn from creamy white in summer to pink as the weather cools in fall. Sometimes, foliage alone adds height, shapes or textures to your garden. Northern Lights Tufted Hairgrass adds year-round interest. Plant it as a thriller in a container to add height behind lower flowering plants.

Northern Lights Tufted Hairgrass also is a perfect choice for rock gardens and natural-looking landscapes. The grass grows to nearly 3 feet tall in an upright shape of about a foot around. The foliage is pretty blowing in breezes even in winter after the blades have dried. The low-care grass produces its creamy-white color again in spring as new blades grow.


Deschampsia, Hassock Grass, Tufted Hair Grass, Tussock Grass 'Northern Lights'

Family: Poaceae (poh-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Deschampsia (deh-SHAMP-see-uh) (Info)
Species: cespitosa (kess-pi-TOH-suh) (Info)
Cultivar: Northern Lights
Synonym:Deschampsia caespitosa

Category:

Ornamental Grasses and Bamboo

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs Water regularly do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Foliage:

Foliage Color:

Height:

Spacing:

Hardiness:

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 °C (-30 °F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 °C (-25 °F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 °C (-20 °F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 °C (-15 °F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

Where to Grow:

Danger:

Bloom Color:

Bloom Characteristics:

Flowers are good for drying and preserving

Bloom Size:

Bloom Time:

Other details:

Soil pH requirements:

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:

Seed Collecting:

N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

Regional

This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Gardeners' Notes:

On Sep 20, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

As the name suggests, this species is a clump-former and does not spread. The flower scapes can reach 3', but the foliage is only about 16" tall. This is a fairly small grass.

This is a cool-season grass, so it emerges from dormancy earlier than most in the spring, and it blooms in late spring (June here). It is evergreen in mild winter climates, but only semi-evergreen here in Boston Z6a.

It is also one of the most shade tolerant of true grasses---mine did well and bloomed well in dappled shade with almost no direct sun, here in Boston Z6a. Looks great when backlit.

It is not long-lived---mine lasted about 5 years. Regular division may help you keep it going longer.

It likes cool moist climates, and does better in Vermont than in. read more LA. The species is said to self-sow, sometimes aggressively, when conditions are right, but mine never did. This cultivar is said to be reluctant to flower. Seedlings will not be variegated.

On Sep 19, 2014, anelson from Birchwood, WI (Zone 3b) wrote:

This is not a big burly grass here in Northern Wisconsin - but it is still hardy and very pretty, with slender leaves and very tall lacy seed heads. I have it growing in part shade, and it looks lovely.

On Jul 15, 2008, caroling from Albany, OR wrote:

My grass receives about 3 hours of mid-day sun. The soil gets quite dry between waterings in the summer, but the grass looks great. In winter, the Willamette Valley is cloudy and very rainy, with temperatures down into the 20's, yet this grass continues to look great. The stalks stay very upright and tidy. A wonderful all-season plant. I highly recommend it!

On Jun 6, 2008, jeanetteii from Littleton, CO (Zone 5a) wrote:

I got a sad-looking specimen for cheap last fall from a nursery's "clearance" table. We planted this grass on the northwest edge of several aspen trees, so it is definitely in part shade. However, the sun is pretty bright here in northern Colorado. This plant is doing splendidly and we just love it. It started growing quite early this season compared to other plants, and now it is about 2 feet tall. We plan to grow more.

On Apr 23, 2008, Connie_G from Austin, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

I just bought one of these tufts of grass from Lowe's. our BB garden center / home supply store in Texas for 7. I've never seen it offered here before. My plant stick says "PART SUN--Morning Sun Only" and the PlantFiles says FULL sun. I guess it depends on the Zone, and our Texas August sun would probably damage it. I'll try to update as it grows (or doesn't).
Lowe's has a 1 year guarantee..one just has to save the receipt, so it was an easy decision to buy. it's incredible looking with all the color variation in one tuft!


Deschampsia Species, Hair Grass, Hassock Grass, Tufted Hair Grass, Tussock Grass

Category:

Ornamental Grasses and Bamboo

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs Water regularly do not overwater

Requires consistently moist soil do not let dry out between waterings

Sun Exposure:

Foliage:

Foliage Color:

Height:

Spacing:

Hardiness:

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 °C (-30 °F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 °C (-25 °F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 °C (-20 °F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 °C (-15 °F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round in hardiness zone

Can be grown as an annual

Danger:

Bloom Color:

Bloom Characteristics:

Flowers are good for cutting

Flowers are good for drying and preserving

Bloom Size:

Bloom Time:

Other details:

Soil pH requirements:

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:

By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

From seed direct sow outdoors in fall

From seed direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Regional

This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Gardeners' Notes:

On Jul 31, 2015, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

This species not only has a large range in North America, but also Eurasia. It is a cool season grass that emerges early in spring. It has dark green slender arching blades that form a tussock. It bears very fine-textured cloud-like flower clusters in summer into winter. It grows in average well-drained soil or organic draining wet soils. Cut down low in late winter to prepare it for the growing season. This mother species is sold by some native plant nurseries and some conventional, but not available just everywhere. I have not seen it very much in the Midwest or East, just infrequently, though it is a good ornamental or native meadow restoration grass.

On Sep 20, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

As the name suggests, this is a clump-former and does not spread. The flower scapes can reach 3', but the foliage is only about 16" tall. This is a fairly small grass. The flowers and seedheads are especially beautiful when backlit, forming a luminous golden cloud.

This is a cool-season grass, so it emerges from dormancy earlier than most in the spring, and it blooms in late spring (June here). Flowers are green fading to tan, and last most of the summer. In the garden, they do need periodic grooming as some scapes begin to lodge after a month or so, at least with the taller cultivars.

It is evergreen in mild winter climates, but only semi-evergreen here in Boston Z6a.

It is also one of the most shade tolerant of true grasses---mine did well and. read more bloomed well in dappled shade with almost no direct sun, here in Boston Z6a.

It is not long-lived---mine lasted about 5 years. Regular division may help you keep it going longer.

It likes cool moist climates, and does better in Vermont than in LA. It is said to self-sow, sometimes aggressively, when conditions are right, but mine never did.

On Jul 9, 2012, CzechRick from Cedaredge, CO wrote:

I live at 6500 ft in Colorado and purchased a few of these grasses at a local nursery where they grow their own. This grass does not impress me but it must impress the local deer. It's the only ornamental grass in my garden that gets chomped to the ground regularly.


Grass-Grooming Tools

Like any project, gather your gardening tools before you get down to business. What you'll need:​

  • Hand pruners
  • Hedge shears (electric of handheld, although the latter gives you more control)
  • Bow saw
  • Trowel
  • Gardening gloves
  • Long sleeves or Armadillos—sleeves made of heavy-duty canvas over duck canvas to protect arms
  • Sturdy shoes—not sandals or flip flops.

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