Forest Grass Container Care : How To Grow Forest Grass In A Pot

Forest Grass Container Care : How To Grow Forest Grass In A Pot

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Japanese forest grass, or Hakonechloa, is an elegant, arching plant with bamboo-like leaves. This forest denizen is perfect for a shady spot and performs well in a container. Growing forest grass in containers in a shady to partially shady location of the landscape brings a hint of the Orient to the garden with a perfect low light plant. Read on for some information on how to grow forest grass in a pot for an adaptable solution and an easy way to move this plant to the shady, moist locations it craves.

Growing Forest Grass in Containers

Using ornamental grasses in pots allows the gardener to control where they grow and to preserve them if they are tender or half hardy. Pots can always be buried or brought indoors to help save the root system when temperatures get cold, but during the spring and summer the plants can be honored guests on the patio, lanai or other shady nook. Container grown forest grass is an excellent example of an ornamental plant that thrives in a pot.

Forest grass is native to temperate regions of Japan. The grass is hardy to United States Department of Agriculture zones 5 to 9. It is considered a deciduous, half hardy, warm season grass and will die back in winter.

The golden foliage is particularly spectacular in a darker pot, set off by colorful shade annuals or simply by itself. The root system is particularly adaptable to confined settings like those in a container. It will not need to be repotted for several years and container grown forest grass can easily be moved if freezing temperatures threaten.

As an added bonus, forest grass container care is minimal, and the plant is quite tolerant of most conditions, provided it is kept moist and in a lower light situation. It is also not favored by deer.

How to Grow Forest Grass in a Pot

Forest grass is a dependable, slow growing grass with extended ornamental appeal. It can be planted in ground or in an attractive container. Select a growing medium that is well draining, or make your own with equal parts peat moss, horticultural sand and compost.

Japanese forest grass requires consistent moisture but cannot tolerate boggy conditions, so a container with several drainage holes is necessary. Combine it in a larger container with dark or blue foliage plants such as hosta or trailing purple sweet potato vine for maximum impact.

In northern climates, it can tolerate partial sun, but in warm regions it must be grown in a partial to full shade location.

Forest Grass Container Care

Keep your Japanese forest grass evenly moist. You may put a mulch of organic matter such as compost over the top, fine bark or even gravel, which prevents weeds and conserves moisture.

In winter where occasional freezes are expected, bury the pot in the ground or move it indoors. Northern gardeners will need to move the container inside where the plant won’t freeze.

Provide half the water you normally would in winter and increase as spring arrives. Every three years, divide the plant for better growth. Remove it from the container in early spring and use a sharp, clean implement to cut the plant into 2 or 3 sections, each with foliage and roots. Plant each section in fresh potting medium.

Cut back dead leaves in fall or early spring to make way for new foliage. This grass has few disease or pest issues and will make a wonderful containerized addition to the mobile garden.

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Carex buchananii, Carex comans, Carex elata, Carex flagellifera, Carex morrowii, Carex oshimensis, Carex testacea,

Diverse in color, shape, texture or size, Carex (Sedge) is a very large genus of about 1,000 species and countless cultivars. Evergreen or deciduous, some produce a small fountain of gracefully arching foliage while others present a more upright appearance. They all add drama in the garden or in containers.

Easy to grow, low maintenance and tough, Sedges can help you create a terrific display with their bold variegated foliage cascading with elegance or the dramatic contrast their tufted, erect copper-bronze foliage offers when mixed with silvers or hot flower colors.

Spring container
Carex Oshimensis 'Everoro', Primula, Myosotis scorpioides

If you want to create a magnificent display during the cold months of the year, opt for evergreen Sedges that will reliably brighten the dull days of winter.

Summer container
Carex Oshimensis 'Evercream', Angelonia angustifolia, Calibrachoa

Summer container
Carex Oshimensis 'Everlite', Lavandula angustifolia, Petunia

They look terrific alongside other plants in pots or containers, whether perennials, annuals or other ornamental grasses. Enjoy combining colors and shapes to create a fabulous display.

Fall container
Carex Oshimensis 'Eversheen', Solanum pseudocapsicum

Fall container
Carex Oshimensis 'Everbrite', Heuchera, Gaultheria

Sedges require very little care and provide year-round interest. Place your pots or containers in sun or part shade and water regularly, particularly in the summer. However, do not overwater. Feed monthly with a liquid fertilizer during the growing season.

Winter container
Carex Oshimensis 'Everlite', Chamaecyparis lawsoniana, Viola

Here is a selection of wonderful Sedges, prized for their compact habit and delicate foliage.

II. Introduction

Plants grown in containers offer homeowners flexibility, whether the plants are houseplants indoors or colorful annuals on an outdoor patio. Planting in containers allows a gardener to easily make changes in location if sunlight or temperatures do not encourage plant growth. Indoor container plants not only improve air quality but also help to enhance the visual interest of a home (Figure 18–1). Outdoor containers offer people without a large yard or garden the opportunity to grow vegetables, herbs, or flowers for personal enjoyment (Figure 18–2). Gardeners with physical limitations may find that plants in raised containers are easier to maintain than those planted in the ground. The possibilities are endless—with new exciting plant varieties that thrive in containers and the bounty of beautiful containers that can be found at local retailers and garden centers.

All plants need the same basic environmental conditions to survive. Correct management of growth factors—light, water, temperature, air movement, relative humidity, and fertilization—and the proper growing medium are the keys to success with container-grown plants. Indoor and outdoor container-grown plants share many characteristics, but each situation also has some unique needs. This chapter first explores what all container-grown plants have in common and then reviews the differences between outdoor and indoor container gardening.

Figure 18–1. An indoor hanging basket.

Figure 18–1. An indoor hanging basket.

Figure 18–2. Vegetables and herbs grown in outdoor containers.

Figure 18–2. Vegetables and herbs grown in outdoor containers.

Can You Re-Use Potting Soil From Your Containers?

Q. Mike: My wife likes to plant flowers and vegetables in large pots. Come winter, we empty the pots. The used potting soil usually contains an extensive root structure and often is beginning to sprout weeds. What is the best way to store and recondition the potting soil for reuse the following year? Thanks!

    ---Dr. Mitch The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Both my wife and I thoroughly enjoy your programme for the sound, useful advice and the humorous and boisterous tone in which it is delivered. Would you please settle a long-standing disagreement between us: Can one re-use potting soil after having grown plants/flowers in it for one season? The husband says: "Yes! You bet-your-potting-soil!" The dear wife (who, admittedly has spent 100 hours gardening for every hour the husband has dabbled) claims that such soil is spent after one growing season and may now harbour insects and/or disease. Who is right? Please do let us know…

    ---Michael (the husband) in Spokane, Washington

Q. An excellent question, and one that deserves an intelligent discussion. But instead of that, I'll tell you what I do with mine.

First, let's review the basics of container contents. Because you are going to trap these poor plants in a finite space, as opposed to the great outdoors where they can send their roots out much further in search of help, you have to supply them with a light growing mediumthat drains exceptionally well. That means no garden soil in the mix. Instead, the ideal medium for containers is three-quarters soil-free mix and one-quarter compost.

"Soil-free mix" is the term I use for high-quality potting soil it may also be called professional mix, seed-starting mix, sterile growing medium or some other synonym. It's generally composed of milled peat moss (with a little lime to adjust the pH), perlite and/or vermiculite (naturally occurring minerals that are 'popped' in big ovens) and some compost or "composted forest products". Some packagers substitute coir (shredded coconut fiber) for the peat and some companies add nutrients to the mix (which is bad if the nutrients are man-made chemicals, but wonderful if they're natural things like worm castings).

Mix one of those mixes up with some high-quality compost, and you'll have a growing medium that retains moisture and drains well, contains a nice amount of organic matter, and is light enough for you to move the containers around fairly easily.

So—what do you then do with this wonderful stuff at the end of its first season? Because the soil will expand and contract greatly over a harsh winter, those who grow where the ground freezes hard should empty out plastic, ceramic and clay pots to protect them from cracking. Or you can just bring the whole schmageggie inside to a place that will remain above freezing. (If you do empty them out in the fall, remove any roots or weeds and add them to your compost pile. If you store the pots full, plan to remove this debris when you freshen up the mix the following Spring.)

In my opinion and physical reality, the only hard-core issue of re-use here is The Tomato Rule. Potting soil that was used to grow tomatoes should not be used to grow tomatoes the following two years. BUT that soil can be used to grow flowers, bush beans, peppers, salad greens—whatever you want, as long as it's not tamatas. Conversely (like the sneakers), soil that hasn't ever been used for tomatoes (or that hasn't seen their roots for a few seasons) can be used to grow this year's love apples.

One way to achieve this noble end is to have two big galvanized or hard plastic trash cans, label one with a T and one without, and use these to store your soils over winter. Don't worry about otherwise mixing the soil from different pots I actually prefer to combine mine to mitigate any potential nutrient imbalances and such.

The following season, buy some fresh soil-free mix and use it to freshen up every pot that gets filled with old soil. How much? Up to a third new mix if your old soil is really old or if it seems to be bulking up on you less if your old stuff is still light and fluffy. Always add fresh compost to the tune of one-quarter of the container.

Now the risks. Insect carry-over is fairly remote, as is the risk of keeping a disease alive other than the soil-borne wilts that attack tomatoes. Weeds could be an issue, especially if you don't mulch the tops of your containers with shredded leaves (which I highly recommend as the leaves also retain moisture, a very important consideration for pots in direct sun or during an especially hot dry summer).

But those weeds (and any tricky diseases) will still be much less of an issue than in outdoor gardens, and the weeds can be even further avoided by layering the new season's compost a couple of inches thick on top of the old soil-free mix instead of mixing it in.

And if, like me, you garden in ground and in containers, it's a wonderful idea to give one or two of your containers a completely fresh set of clothes every few years and mix their old potting soil into your garden, where its mix of lightweight ingredients will be welcomed by the roots of your plants—especially if those poor rooties have to try and fight their way through the misery of clay.

Read these Previous Questions of the Week on CONTAINER GROWING BASICS and GROWING TOMATOES IN CONTAINERS for more info on those important topics.

Watch the video: Top 10 Ornamental Grasses