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Northern Sea Oats Grass – How To Plant Northern Sea Oats

Northern Sea Oats Grass – How To Plant Northern Sea Oats


By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) is a perennial ornamental grass with interesting flat foliage and unique seed heads. The plant provides several seasons of interest and is a good landscape plant for USDA zones 5 to 8. Northern sea oats decorative grass is native to south and eastern parts of the United States from Texas to Pennsylvania. The plant’s name refers to the spikelets that hang from the plant and resemble oat seed heads. The different forms of the grass make growing northern sea oats grass in the garden an excellent choice.

Northern Sea Oats in the Garden

Northern sea oats decorative grass is a versatile plant that performs equally well in sun or shade. The grass is loosely tufted and forms a clump. The leaves are dark green, long, and slightly pointed at the end, resembling bamboo leaves.

The real attraction is the flower’s seed head, which is a wide, flat construction whose texture resembles wheat heads. The flowers are dangling panicles and the foliage turns a rich bronze in fall. The seed heads arrive in summer and persist for three seasons. They are often used as part of cut flower arrangements. The seed heads start out a medium green and age to a light tan color.

Use of northern sea oats in the garden tends to fill large areas when planted in mass and form a swath of motion that enlivens the landscape.

You need to consider the invasive nature of the plant, which grows from rhizomes and seeds readily. The self-sowing nature can cause numerous seedlings and make the grass a nuisance. Cut the seed heads off to prevent spreading and bring them indoors for use in dried floral arrangements. The foliage should be sheared back in late winter to make way for the new spring growth.

How to Plant Northern Sea Oats

Northern sea oats grass is a warm-season grass that spreads through rhizomes. Its hardiness zone can be extended to USDA zone 4 with heavy mulching and if planted in a protected location.

The plant can tolerate very dry conditions or moist soils that are well drained. Plant northern sea oats in a location where you need a 3 to 5 foot (1-1.5 m.) tall plant with a similar spread and a drought tolerant specimen.

When grown in a shady location the plant is greener and taller, but it still produces flowers and seed heads.

How to Grow Northern Sea Oats

The site and moisture adaptability is not the only attribute to planting northern sea oats. It is also tolerant of sea spray and can be grown on coastal areas. Create rich, organically amended soil for planting northern sea oats. Rich, well drained soil in sun is the best situation for how to grow northern sea oats.

The grass is native to wooded slopes and creek bottoms where soils are rich from organic deposits and natural compost. Mimic the natural habitat of any plant you are growing for a successful cultivation. The plant can easily be cultivated by division of the rhizomes in fall or early spring.

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Northern Sea Oats in fall

Northern Sea Oats in fall

Other Names: Uniola latifolia

This grass is grown for its lovely drooping hop-like seed heads that flutter in the wind the seed heads mature to a purple-bronze color and make a nice accent when left on through the winter use for fresh and dried flower arrangements

Northern Sea Oats is primarily grown for its highly ornamental fruit. It produces abundant clusters of purple hop-like fruit from late summer to late fall. It grassy leaves are light green in color. As an added bonus, the foliage turns a gorgeous coppery-bronze in the fall. The flowers are not ornamentally significant.

Northern Sea Oats is an herbaceous perennial grass with a shapely form and gracefully arching stems. Its medium texture blends into the garden, but can always be balanced by a couple of finer or coarser plants for an effective composition.

This is a relatively low maintenance plant, and is best cleaned up in early spring before it resumes active growth for the season. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Northern Sea Oats is recommended for the following landscape applications

  • Accent
  • Mass Planting
  • Border Edging
  • General Garden Use
  • Naturalizing And Woodland Gardens
  • Container Planting

Northern Sea Oats will grow to be about 4 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 30 inches. Its foliage tends to remain dense right to the ground, not requiring facer plants in front. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 10 years.

This plant does best in full sun to partial shade. It is quite adaptable, prefering to grow in average to wet conditions, and will even tolerate some standing water. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution. This species is native to parts of North America.

Northern Sea Oats is a fine choice for the garden, but it is also a good selection for planting in outdoor pots and containers. Because of its height, it is often used as a 'thriller' in the 'spiller-thriller-filler' container combination plant it near the center of the pot, surrounded by smaller plants and those that spill over the edges. It is even sizeable enough that it can be grown alone in a suitable container. Note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden.


2. Purple fountain grass

Botanical name: Pennisetum setaceum “Ruburm”

Fountain Grass prepares a very good scenario with pink and red color. It is planted in the garden as a beautiful Garden Grass. These are dear-resistant and can be easily planted in containers. This zone flourishes very well in 8-10. The purple fountain is not very cold hardy, but then it is well worth growing in the North. This gives your garden a multi-dimensional display. These Ornamental grasses prefer full sun. See more .


Northern Sea Oats In The Garden: How To Grow Northern Sea Oats - garden

At this time of year, it’s easy to walk past sections of browning plants and dismiss the possibility of winter interest. However, for the more enthusiastic plant lover, gardener, designer or landscape painter this is seen as a time to really appreciate the structure and form of a garden while also enjoying hidden gems of color, shade, and shape. The addition of snow can make this contrast all the more glorious.

The Northern Spur Preserve is host to Chasmanthium latifolium, a native, perennial, ornamental grass. In winter, you can really see the terrific contrast between the striking yellow and red of the aptly named Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ and the sea of Chasmanthium latifolium’s beautiful drooping flat panicles of seed heads and coppery brown upright foliage that lead to the stark form of the Amorpha fruticosa so bare and overshadowing in comparison. It really ties the planting together nicely.

On the High Line we allow the foliage to remain over winter both for the interest of the foliage and seed heads, but also to protect the crowns from winter freezing.

However, it’s not only winter when Northern sea oats, a common name derived from the similarity of the seed heads to those of oats, comes into its own. In fact from the time of its emergence in spring it performs strong. We cut it back to the crown in late March or early April and from that point on it is a vigorous grower with the alternate leaf blades reaching up to 10 inches long and 1 inch wide.

The seed heads, starting out a beautiful shade of lime green against the backdrop of the much deeper green foliage, will change as the summer rolls on, eventually becoming a browner color late in summer while the foliage turns much more slowly. The deep green leaf blades will brown a little towards the end of summer, but it will not be until the first frost of winter that they take on a pleasing copper brown color.

The flowers of Chasmanthium latifolium are wind-pollinated and because of this are not very attractive to pollinators. However the caterpillars of several skippers as well as the caterpillars of some butterflies do feed on the foliage.

In its uses in the garden, we’d add a word of caution. Chasmanthium latifolium is a self-seeder and has a fibrous, rhizomatus root system that often causes clonal colonies of plants to develop in ideal conditions where this can be a bully. It grows very easily in wet, medium soils in part shade, and is more aggressive in moist, well-drained soils. We recommend growing this plant in a shadier section of your garden, where you may be finding it hard to establish other plants, or in sunnier, drier areas where it is less likely to take off. If you use the seed heads for seasonal displays and divide the clumps with a spade every couple of years, it is pretty manageable.

One of the most interesting places where northern sea oats has been found growing well is under black walnut (Juglans nigra). As anyone who has tried to grow under black walnut understands, it can be really hard to get anything to establish due to the toxic juglone they produce, inhibiting respiration and often killing plants.

WHERE TO FIND THIS PLANT
On the High Line between 15th and 16th streets.

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Northern Sea Oats

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Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) is native to the Eastern US. In nature, it grows in the woods, along streams or on rocky slopes, helping to stabilize the soil. Sea Oats forms tufts of bamboo-like foliage that will be topped off with oats-like, gracefully drooping seed heads in the fall. Add them to your flower arrangements, either fresh or dried. After the first frosts, the leaves turn an attractive coppery color before they pale for the winter. Leave your plants as they are for the winter, they will add a touch of interest to the landscape.

2021 Spring Shipping Schedule:

ZonesFirst Shipping Date
7+Ships Now
5-6April 5, 2021
3-4May 3, 2021

2021 Spring Shipping Schedule:

Zones First Shipping Date
3-4 May 3, 2021
5-6 April 5, 2021
7+ Ships Now

Shipping Methods

Orders will be shipped via FedEx Home Delivery.

Orders are generally in route for 2-5 business days (depending on where you live).

We are sticklers about packaging and shipping your order in a way that guarantees healthy plants upon arrival. If plants are damaged on arrival, just let us know and we'll send you new ones or offer a full refund.

All of our plants are container grown and shipped with the soil and roots fully intact. We DO NOT ship your plants bare-root. Being shipped as a containered plant greatly reduces the risk of the plant not surviving the transit to your home.

Shipping Rates

Order TotalShipping Cost
.00 - $90.00$11.95
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When will my order ship?

2021 Spring Shipping Schedule:

Zones First Shipping Date
3-4 May 3, 2021
5-6 April 5, 2021
7+ Ships Now

How will my order be shipped?

Your order will be shipped FedEx Home Delivery. Once shipped, your order will arrive in 2-5 business days.

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Yes. If, in the rare case your plants are damaged upon arrival, just contact us within 7 days and a full refund or exchange will be issued for those plants.

Will this plant grow where I live?

The hardiness zones that each plant will grow in are listed in the plant details section. Please make sure that the plants are rated for the zone you live in. If you don't know what zone you are in, please check the zone map and zip code lookup tool above to find out.

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Sure. After placing your order, just send us an email with your order number and the date you would like your order delivered.

We promise to only send you healthy, well rooted plants. If, in the rare case your plants are damaged upon arrival, or you are not completely satisfied, contact us at [email protected] right away and we’ll take care of it.

If your plant(s) were damaged on arrival, we will send out replacements to you immediately at no extra charge to you.

If that plant is no longer in stock, or you prefer to not receive a replacement, we will issue full refund for any damaged plants.

In some cases, we may simply request a photo of the damaged plant to verify condition of plant before we process replacement or refund.

If you have any other questions about our refund/replacement policy, please feel free to email us at [email protected]

In order to keep our prices as low as possible, and offer you the best value online, we cannot be responsible for damage done to the plant due to extreme weather or neglect. You will receive healthy plants that are well rooted and ready to plant, and as long as proper care is given and hardiness zone recommendations are followed, you will have a thriving plant and will not be disappointed! -->


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