Saturday, December 29, 2012

Spodiopogon sibiricus
Frost Grass, Siberian Graybeard, Silver Spike Grass

Frost Grass is an attractive clump-forming ornamental grass from Far East Asia; China, Korea, Japan and Siberia. Growing on lower mountain slopes, forest margins and roadsides it has the upright sculptural appearance of bamboo.

6” to 8” leaves taper horizontally from shoots through spring and early summer. The bushy appearance changes as light catching 12” terminal panicles emerge in mid-summer. Foliage color changes to red or burgundy in fall.

Frost grass can create large clumps 4’ high and 3-1/2’ wide, plant as a fall specimen or in massive sweeping groups. The light green foliage creates a blending background element. While the foliage remains dense to the ground and does not require a facing element, I love a rock facing or surrounding scaled boulders comparable to its native mountain slopes. Russian Cypress provides a valuable native companion. Recommended spacing between plants is between 18”-40”, it is rather slow growing and lives for more than a decade.

Well-drained, mesic soil is desired for good appearance, wet soils should be avoided. Frost grass is not drought tolerant and should be watered to root depth every few weeks. Full sun is optimal, the grass is partially shade tolerant; in hot summer climates, more shade is recommended. It is not particular about pH. This grass is tolerant of urban pollution and salts.

The panicles only look good through fall, Frost grass is often cut back before winter sets. The dried panicles are great for dried flower arrangements.

This grass is generally propagated by division. The cultivar “West Lake” was collected from China for its pinkish-red panicles. Zone 3-8.

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