Crinkled hairgrass is a cool season, clump forming grass for moist to dry locations. Drought tolerant.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Deschampsia flexuosa is a cool season clumping perennial grass. The tufted evergreen foliage is narrow and finely textured. In late spring airy panicles of silvery or purplish florets with hair like awns rise above the foliage. The inflorescence matures to a lovely apricot color and waves in the slightest breeze. This elegant grass thrives in xeric shaded habitats or in dappled shade gardens with average well drained soil.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: Deschampsia flexuosa occurs in Greenland, Iceland, Canada and from Maine west to Michigan and south to northern Georgia and Alabama. Plants occur in a few scattered central and western states including Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arizona and Alaska.
This species is indigenous to cool dry habitats with thin sandy soils including balds, ledges, ridges, cliffs, dry rocky slopes, upland grasslands, dry open woods, mountain summits, forest clearings and edges, shorelines and plateaus. This grass can form colonies in evergreen montane woodlands. Plants occur in disturbed or high quality habitats.
This grass is hardy from USDA Zones 3-8.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Deschampsia flexuosa is cool season bunchgrass with a mounding habit.
Leaves are linear, arching and evergreen or semi-evergreen. They are borne in dense deep green or blue-green tussocks.
Attractive florets with hair-like awns are displayed above the foliage in loose openly branched panicles. The florets are silvery or purplish when young becoming bronze or golden brown with age.
The panicles are wide with a light airy quality. They refract the late afternoon light beautifully even after the florets transition into seed. The flower and fruit display is striking through summer and into autumn.
Foliage is usually less than 12” tall with clouds of florets arching to 30”. Plants have a spread of almost 2’.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Deschampsia flexuosa prospers in shaded or partly shaded sites with dry or well drained sandy soils. Plants tolerate drought and have a preference for acid pH.
This species languishes in high heat and humidity and persists only in cool dry sites.
In garden situations, old foliage and seed stalks can be cut to the ground in late winter to provide a blank slate for fresh new growth.
Some self-seeding will occur. If this is undesirable, plants should be deadheaded before seed form.
LANDSCAPE USES: Due to its delightful airy flower panicles, Deschampsia flexuosa is a lovely Accent, Grouping or Mass for the Shade Garden. Plants provide Erosion Control and offer Showy Flowers, Attractive Seedheads and Winter Interest. This is a useful Cut Flower that is appropriate for Low Maintenance Plantings, dry Meadows, Perennial Borders, Rock Gardens and Wildlife Gardens.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Try pairing Deschampsia flexuosa with other xeric shade lovers like Aster macrophyllus, Carex flaccosperma, Chrysogonum virginianum, Heuchera villosa, Polystichum acrostichoides, Scutellaria ovata and Solidago caesia.
If a substitute is needed, Danthonia spicata has similar height and cultural needs.
TRIVIA: Deschampsia flexuosa is easy to identify when in flower because the panicle has angular bends in the pedicels that hold the florets. Because of these stems, the plant is known as wavy hairgrass or crinkled hairgrass.
A variety of birds feed on the seed and seek cover in the dense foliage tufts.
Deschampsia flexuosa also occurs in Mexico, Central America, South America, Borneo, the Philippines, and New Zealand.
For more information on this plant, visit the USDA PLANTS Database:http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=DEFL