Common Beargrass Care: Learn How To Grow Beargrass In The Garden. Beargrasses are very common plants in the wild. They grow in every kind of soil and even in some places they have been known to grow on rocky areas or at least near them. Some of them can reach a height up to five feet tall, but most of them are much smaller than that, sometimes only one foot high! They need good drainage because their roots cannot survive without it. A well drained ground will not allow bears to grow there. Bears prefer moist soil and it is very important that the soil does not dry out completely during wintertime. When a beargrass plant dies, its roots die with it. If the root system of a dead beargrass plant dries out completely, then no new growth will take place in that area until spring comes again!
Bear Grasses are quite easy to cultivate if you know how. You just need to make sure that your soil is well drained and that you do not let it dry out completely during wintertime.
You can easily grow beargrass in pots or small containers. However, you may want to try growing them in a garden where they will get plenty of sunlight and water.
The best time of year to start cultivating beargrasses is from late summer through early fall when the weather gets cooler and the temperatures drop a bit. You should never disturb a beargrasses root system.
That could kill your plant. Instead, just carefully lift a good sized clump of dirt with the roots contained inside and replant that in your new location.
It grows in bunches so you will see many shoots coming up from the same root system when you dig it up. These can be broken apart to plant individually or you can leave them together and just replant the entire clump.
It is important that the beargrasses do not dry out completely during winter or they will die. If the ground freezes in winter you can mulch heavily around the base of the plant to protect it.
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In A Nutshell Just because a plant grows in a certain environment, does not mean that you can grow it there as well. Pick a plant that is native to your area for the best results.
Tips & Warnings
Make sure to plant your seeds when it is wet outside if possible. Add some fertilizer to the area, but do not use too much as it could damage the roots.
If you are having a hard time finding beargrasses in your area, try going to a zoo or park that has them growing there. You can try digging up a few clumps and replanting them in your desired location.
Just remember to keep them watered and they should be just fine.
Make sure the area you plan on growing your beargrasses is free of other plants you do not want there. It will only compete with the beargrasses for nutrients and water.
Make sure you know how large your beargrasses will grow before you plant it in the ground. It is often best to plant them in pots or containers first to give them plenty of room to grow before transplanting them into the ground.
Be careful when handling beargrasses, as they have tiny thorns just under their leaves. They are not poisonous or harmful, but they can be painful if you get jabbed by one so handle with care.
Be careful where you plant your beargrasses as the roots can sometimes spread up to five feet from the base of the plant. Also, make sure there are no other plants in that area as it will only compete for nutrients and water.
When taking clumps out of the ground, be extremely careful not to damage the roots or you will lose that clump. Dig around it carefully and lift carefully.
These plants need lots of sunlight to grow properly. If you have a hard time finding them in your area, you may need to clear an area of trees so that they will get the sunlight they need.
You can also grow them indoors if you just provide artificial lighting for them to use.
Be sure to get your clumps of beargrasses in the ground before it is fall or they may not survive over winter. Be careful not to expose them to frost or freezing temperatures as this could kill them as well.
Be careful when transplanting and do not plant them too deep or too shallow. You want the bud about an inch under the surface of the soil so that it can start growing roots.
Also, be sure to water them right after you plant them.
Leave a 2-3 foot area between the clumps when you are planting them. They will grow and spread, but this will give them room to do so.
It takes about three years for your beargrasses to mature and start spreading, so be patient.
Newly planted beargrasses need to be watered every other day or so until they are well rooted. After that, you can water them once a week unless it has been extremely dry.
It is better to under water than over water your plants. If the plants start to look like their health is declining, cut back on watering and add some mulch to keep the soil moist longer.
If the leaves start to turn yellow it means that they aren’t getting enough water. If the lower portion of the plant is turning yellow and brown it most likely needs water.
If you get them in the ground when there is still danger of frost, you can put a plastic tent over them to help them through the first few frosts. After that, just remove the tent and they should be fine until the warmer temperatures arrive.
Be careful when transplanting into larger areas. You don’t want to disturb other plants or trees that are in the area.
You also don’t want to disturb any roots of other plants as this could harm them.
If the area you are wanting to plant beargrasses in contains a lot of trees, you might want to consider clearing the area of all trees first before planting your beargrasses. This will ensure that they get the sunlight and air that they need.
Don’t try to plant them in an area that is going to be paved. They are hardy, but they don’t do well under those conditions and their roots will not survive being crushed by heavy construction equipment.
If you have some beargrasses in pots that you want to transplant, dig a hole for each plant about twice the diameter of the pot it’s in and about the same depth. Then remove as much of the soil from the roots as possible using your hands.
Be careful not to break any of the fine feeder roots that you can easily break off.
After getting as much of the soil removed as you can, place the plant in the hole and fill in with soil. Pat the soil down firmly around the plant and don’t water for at least a week to let the roots get well established in the new soil.
Be sure to keep an eye on your plants after you have planted them and continue to keep the area around them free of weeds.
Every once in a while check to make sure that none of the clumps are spreading into paths or other areas you don’t want them to spread to. If they start to do this, just stop them by constantly removing any new sprouts until they get the message and stop growing in that direction.
Your beargrasses need about an inch of water a week. This can come from rain, but if your area is in a drought like ours has been for the past few months then you will need to provide the water.
Using a soaker hose on low speed is ideal. You could also use a standard hose on low pressure.
Just make sure the plants are getting enough water without it running off and draining away too quickly. You don’t want the plants sitting in water as this will cause root rot.
Your beargrasses don’t require a lot of fertilizer to remain healthy. Just a little bit in the spring will do just fine.
If you have heavy clay or compacted soil, then dig your hole wider and deeper for the plant and add some coarse sand or horticultural sand to the bottom of the hole before placing the root ball in it. This improves drainage greatly.
What Kind of Soil Do I Need?
Be advised that your Phalaris needs a soil type that does not retain water. In other words, if you are planting in a low spot where water naturally collects, it probably isn’t the best place to put them. The root system is fine-tuned enough that it can and will send out new roots into the surrounding soil in search of nutrients if the soil is too wet. But if that soil is constantly soggy, the roots will die.
Those beautiful tall grasses that are growing in wet soil near water?
They are probably Phalaris.
If you want a specific type of soil to fill your hole, sand works great. It is easy to work with and drains well.
Just make sure you dig the hole wider and deeper so that the top portion of the root ball is not in soil that is too compacted or contains clay. If this is the case, the roots will have a hard time expanding into the surrounding soil and will just grow out of the bottom of the hole instead.
While your beargrasses can easily grow in dry conditions, they do much better with regular moisture. In fact, during the hottest and driest months of the year, you may need to water them every 3-5 days depending on how hot it is and how big they are.
You can use a soaker hose to water them. Just set it on low speed and have it trickle out water over a 3-4 hour period.
You can move it around from time to time if you want, but keep the hose off of the grass itself.
You can also use a regular hose on low pressure and move it back and forth over the area for 5 minutes or so, being careful not to spray the leaves as this can cause diseases.
Just make sure that the soil is wet at least 6-10 inches down. Don’t just water the top 2-3 inches because the plant will grow only roots down near the surface and the rest of it will wither and die.
It is an invasive species and will grow wherever it can, but only if given the right conditions.
Why Are They Called Beggar’s Lice?
It is a common misconception that these plants were named after the common beggar of medieval times. In fact, the name actually comes from the fact that their seeds are so small and light that they can easily be carried about by the wind in the same way as a beggar might hope to be given alms in a town or city.
These plants grow all over the world other than the poles and the desert areas. It grows wild in practically all of the USA.
It is also a very important food source for animals such as deer, cattle, and sheep as well as many songbirds. Even rabbits and other herbivores eat the grass directly.
It provides for a very balanced food chain.
While this plant can spread aggressively, it is very important to the environment that it doesn’t spread TOO much. So if you plant it, keep it in a single area and keep it watered.
If you fail to do this, it will quickly die off due to lack of moisture and spread no further.
As an added bonus, it is a favorite food of black bears. So if you live in bear country (which includes most of the eastern half of the USA and into the mountains in the west) planting this grass seed will help to draw the bears away from your house.
Where Can I Get It?
You can get the seeds online or at some plant/nursery shops.
Just do a Yahoo or Google search for “Siberian Silky Fescue”, and you will find a variety of sources.
If you want to grow it from seed, the process is very simple. Plant the seeds 1 inch deep in loose soil, keep it watered, and wait 2-3 months for it to fully mature.
You can expect a full coverage of the area within 3-5 years depending on how much you water and take care of it.
Where Else Can I Find This Grass?
While you can’t find it in your local garden center or home depot, it is fairly common in some areas.
Sources & references used in this article:
Preliminary observations of using smoke-water to increase low-elevation Beargrass Xerophyllum tenax germination by DJ Shebitz, K Ewing, J Gutierrez – Native Plants Journal, 2009 – npj.uwpress.org
People, plants, and pollinators: the conservation of beargrass ecosystem diversity in the Western United States by S Charnley, S Hummel – … of biological interactions in the study of …, 2011 – books.google.com
Fire Ecology and Native American Cultural Use of Beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax Melanthiaceae) in the Pacific Northwest, USA by GM Hart-Fredeluces – 2019 – search.proquest.com
… Sisal Hemp, the False Sisal Hemp Plant of Florida, and Other Fiber-producing Agaves; Bowstring Hemp, Pineapple Fiber, New Zealand Flax, and Bear-grass by CR Dodge – 1893 – books.google.com