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Native Grasses for Low-Input Landscapes

Applied Research

William Errickson
Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent
Rutgers Cooperative Extension


Ornamental grasses are popular nursery and landscape plants that are low maintenance and deer resistant. Many native grasses demonstrate ornamental qualities as well as abiotic stress tolerance. Grasses can attract pollinators and perform valuable ecosystem services in green infrastructure applications. This program evaluated 46 taxa of ornamental grasses and sedges for their aesthetics, growth characteristics, bloom times, and summer performance in field trials at the Rutgers Specialty Crop Research and Extension Center in Cream Ridge, New Jersey. Open-pollinated native species propagated from NJ genetics were compared to commercially available native cultivars and common non-native industry standards. Several native species were among the top performers, including Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) ‘NJ Open-pollinated’ and ‘Blackhawks’, Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) ‘The Blues’, Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) ‘Purple Tears’, and Coastal Panicgrass (Panicum amarum) ‘NJ Open-pollinated’. These taxa demonstrated a high degree of heat and drought stress tolerance and were minimally affected by any insect or disease problems, making them strong candidates for low-input landscapes. Programming associated with the native grass trials was communicated to commercial horticulture professionals through three field tours (135 participants) and an in-person presentation at the New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association Trade Show (50 participants). Complimentary educational native grass programming targeted to a home gardener audience was also delivered through two virtual programs (258 participants). Evaluation surveys indicated that commercial growers and landscapers gained knowledge regarding best management practices for native grasses, and they were likely to incorporate this information into their operations, while home gardeners indicated they were likely to plant native grasses in their landscapes. This comprehensive approach provided both consumers and producers with science-based extension programming focused on native grasses leading to a strong likelihood of incorporating more of these plants into low-input, sustainable landscapes.

Poster has NOT been presented at any previous NACAA AM/PIC

This poster is being submitted for judging. It will be displayed at the AM/PIC if not selected as a State winner. The abstract will be published in the proceedings.

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Authors: William Errickson, Timothy Waller
  1. Errickson, W. Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, New Jersey, 07728
  2. Waller, T. Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, New Jersey, 08332