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Watering Ornamental Grass

Author Teresa Odle Published 11-14-2020

When you grow ornamental grasses, you're rewarded with a low-maintenance and typically drought-tolerant plant. Ornamental grasses need little for survival, and once established, they can grow and thrive with little water. The exception is a young ornamental grass, newly planted in your landscape or a pot. New plants need more water than mature plants to help their root systems grow robust before summer heat kicks in.

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How to Tell Ornamental Grass Needs Water

Typically, browning leaves or blade tips signal an ornamental grass needs water. Other possible signals are lack of growth or a wilted appearance. The best gauge is to check the soil. If the soil is cracked, it likely is too dry. Container mix that appears dry, especially to the point of separating from the container, is too dry. 

How Often To Water Ornamental Grass

When you first plant your ornamental grass, water it every other day and gradually extend the time between watering over the next few weeks until the plant looks like it is healthy and growing. Keep a close eye on young container-grown grasses, since containers dry out more rapidly than the ground.

The type and size of grass dictates water needs once the plant matures. If an ornamental grass is native to your area, it likely needs little watering. Give it a boost in spring after new growth appears (especially if fertilizing) and then only during periods of drought. Some ornamental grasses are native to tropical areas, so check the plant tag or other source to determine the watering needs of these plants. Water the grass deeply, because as the plant matures, the roots grow deeper in the soil.

Water potted ornamental grasses a little more often than they need in the ground. Containers dry out faster. The best way to water potted or landscape ornamental grasses is slowly, such as with a drip system. Forcing water too rapidly through a container can wash out soil and nutrients.

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Best Time To Water Ornamental Grass

Water ornamental grasses early in the day, so their roots have time to soak up the moisture to fight summer heat but dry out before cool evenings set in. Most ornamental grasses need no watering in winter, unless they are cool-season or evergreen grasses. Avoid overwatering ornamental grass, especially in fall and winter. Cut back on drip watering during rainy periods.

If you are overwintering an ornamental grass in a pot, water those that are dormant sparingly. The plant needs its winter rest. If you want to grow an ornamental grass as a houseplant, water it regularly, but not heavily.

How to Water Ornamental Grass

Step 1 – Water a new ornamental grass well and more often. Water about every other day at first, gradually lengthening time between watering.

Step 2 – Water established plants based on type. Native grasses need less water than tropical ones.

Step 3 – Water slowly, using a drip method if possible. Avoid flushing water through the plant's container.

Ornamental Grass Watering Tips

  • Water newly planted ornamental grasses often for the first few weeks.
  • Water ornamental grasses in pots slowly.
  • Skip watering after rain.
  • Avoid overwatering your ornamental grasses.