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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Knowledgebase record #787

PAL Question 

What ornamental grasses can I plant near salt water, and is there a local nursery that specializes in grasses?


As far as nursery sources, I think a full-service nursery is your best bet for finding ornamental grasses. The only "specialist" in grasses I could find is Walla Walla Nursery, which seems a long way from Seattle to go.

King County's interactive native plant guide also includes a page on marine (salt water) shoreline plants. At the bottom of the page, note the three native grasses which are recommended:

  • Lyngbye's sedge (Carex lyngbyei)
  • tufted hairgrass (Deschampsia cespitosa
  • dunegrass (Elymus mollis)

The following list of plants according to their salt tolerance comes from University of Minnesota Extension, but there may be some ornamental grasses that will do well here.
From the lists:

  • Calamagrostis acutifolia 'Karl Foerster' (Karl Foerster reed grass): high tolerance
  • Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem): high tolerance
  • Elymus arenarius (Blue Lyme grass): high tolerance
  • Pennisetum alopecuroides (Fountain Grass): high tolerance
  • Festuca 'Elijah Blue' 'Elijah Blue' fescue: moderate tolerance

In her book Gardening at the Shore (Timber Press, 2006), Frances Tenenbaum lists a number of ornamental grasses (in addition to dune grasses):

  • Festuca glauca
  • Miscanthus sinensis
  • Muhlenbergia capillaris
  • Stipa tenuissima [now renamed Nassella tenuissima--in my experience, this grass is aggressive, seeding itself everywhere; the seedheads stick to people and pets who walk past it]

There are many attractive cultivated varieties of some of the plants listed above, and most local nurseries will carry them.

Keywords salt-tolerant plants, Seaside gardening, Ornamental grasses
Season All Season
Date 2010-05-27

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