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Extension > Yard and Garden News > Grasses that self-seed

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Grasses that self-seed

Mary H. Meyer, Extension Horticulturist and Professor, University of Minnesota

Is a plant that grows easily from seed a good thing or a bad thing? Perhaps it depends on how much you like the plant! Grasses that self-seed and come up throughout the garden can be an asset or a liability. Listed below are native and non-native grasses that I have seen self-sow in Minnesota growing conditions.  I have noted which are native and ranked them in two categories: very likely (VL) to seed and somewhat likely (L), because to make this list, they all sow seeds.

The worst offender across the U. S. is Miscanthus sinensis, which is listed on many state’s invasive plant lists, and in 2015 New York state regulations started requiring these plants for sale be labeled as invasive plants using specific language. Along a shoreline, it may be advantageous to have native sedges like porcupine and palm sedge that self-sow. I find river oats is marginally hardy so the mother plant may die, but seedlings come up under my silver maple and box elder in these shady hosta and geranium beds where few other plants will grow, so I do not mind seeing these volunteer plants. Removing the seedheads from the plant before they disarticulate (fall apart) is one means of controlling self-seeding grasses.

Self-seeding grasses and sedges
Mace sedge has a distinctive seedhead


mace sedge, Carex greyi, native, likely to self-sow: L
porcupine sedge, Carex hystericina, native, Very likely to self-seed: VL   
palm sedge, Carex muskingumensis, native, VL     
river oats, Chasmanthium latifolium, native to SE U. S., VL           
love grass, Eragrostis curvula 'Wind Dancer', native to SE U. S., L
blue fescue, Festuca species, non-native, L
Siberian melic grass, Melica altissima var. atropurpurea, non-native, VL           
Japanese silvergrass, Miscanthus sinensis cultivars, non-native, L   
two or more cultivars grown together cross-pollinate and set seed; plant only where you can monitor seedlings
River oats grows in sun or shade
tall purple moorgrass, Molinia caerulea ssp. arundinacea, non-native, L   
Mexican feathergrass, Nassella tenuissima (annual), native to SW U. S., VL           
panic grass, Panicum capillare 'Frosted Explosion' (annual), native, VL
switchgrass, Panicum virgatum, native, L           
fountain grass, Pennisetum alopecuroides, non-native, VL           
little bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium, native, L       

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