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Looking at the thriving city of Louisville today, you might have trouble believing that at one time, Kentucky's landscape was a sea of green. Prior to European settlement, Kentucky had more than three million acres of grasslands. These grasslands were critical to supporting its diverse wildlife population. Over the years, Kentucky's grasslands have been replaced with urban landscapes. But that doesn't mean you can't honor the state's rich natural past. Planting native grasses in your Louisville yard is a simple and easy way to boost your property's appeal and pay tribute to Kentucky's historic green fields.
Kentucky's Native Grasses
Creating a successful yard requires knowing a little about Kentucky's past. As with any place, certain grass species do better in the local environment than others. Fortunately, the Louisville region has a temperate climate that supports a variety of grass species. Here are some species to consider for your property, including the best choices if you're looking for specific colors or other characteristics.
- Kentucky bluegrass
- Little bluestem
- Sideoats grama
- Wild rye
- Fowl manna
Naturally, one of the first grasses that comes to mind when you think of native grasses in Kentucky is Kentucky bluegrass. That grass gave Kentucky the nickname of "Bluegrass State." But did you know that this grass did not originate in Kentucky? Kentucky bluegrass was carried over to the Eastern seaboard from Europe during the 1700s. Once it arrived, the grass thrived due to the similarities between its new and native environments. Today, the grass remains a popular choice for residential and commercial landscaping in Louisville. It is also a grass commonly planted in farms and pastures to support livestock grazing. Kentucky bluegrass is considered a "cool season" grass because it grows primarily during the spring and fall. Since it is hardy and versatile, this grass can survive in a wider range of climates than most other grasses in the country. Kentucky bluegrass does best with moderate water levels. Although it can withstand cooler temperatures, Kentucky bluegrass does not do well with excessive heat or droughts.
If you're looking to add color to your property, Indiangrass is an excellent choice for a Louisville landscape. Indiangrass, the USDA notes, is a perennial grass that grows during the spring and fall. In autumn, its color changes from a green hue to one of orange and gold. If you're looking to add color diversity to your property throughout the year, Indiangrass is an excellent choice. This grass is a tall grass that ranges in height from three to seven feet. Therefore, it's also a good option if you want a grass that gives your property privacy or a more dramatic appearance.
Little bluestem stands out for its picturesque blue shade. It grows in clumps and is a popular decorative grass for walkways and landscaping. Little bluestem is one of the hardiest of Kentucky's native grasses. It traditionally grows in open fields, along roadsides, in prairies, and on hillsides anywhere from Canada to Florida. Little bluestem is a popular grass for novice homeowners, as it requires little watering and is quite low-maintenance. This popular species is also commonly used in areas that receive little rainfall, as it is drought-tolerant and versatile.
At first glance (and in certain seasons) sideoats grama bears a close resemblance to several other species of tall, wispy prairie grasses. What makes sideoats grama unique, however, is the fact that it sprouts beautiful red flowers in the summer. The grass also has a purplish hue, which makes it a good choice if you're looking for a property with different colors. Sideoats grama reaches a mature height of 2-3 feet. The grass also does well with many types of wildflowers if you want a more natural-looking property.
Switchgrass is another native grass that will make a Louisville property more appealing. Switchgrass is a perennial grass, which means that it will return year after year with proper care and maintenance. Switchgrass is recognizable for its vibrant green hue. However, it can turn a beautiful yellow color in autumn depending on the climate and seasonal weather patterns. It is a warm season grass that is most productive in the spring and fall. When fully grown, switchgrass grows anywhere from three to six feet tall.
Bottlebrush, says the Missouri Botanical Garden, is a perennial grass that grows well in wooded areas and fields. While some grasses thrive in bright sunlight, bottlebrush prefers shade or partial shade. It is a cool season grass that emerges in spring and comes to life again in the fall when air and soil temperatures are slightly cooler. Bottlebrush grass is generally green in color. It is recognizable for its wispy spikelets that vary in color from light green to white. Bottlebrush grass can reach a full height of two to five feet. Along with making your property more attractive, it naturally attracts birds and pollinators. Bottlebrush is a hardy grass that thrives along the Eastern seaboard and grows northward into Canada.
The name "wild rye" refers to a family of grasses with about 150 different species. Riverbank wild rye and Southeastern wild rye are two species commonly found in Kentucky. Wild rye is a cool season grass that naturally grows in fields, prairies, and along riverbanks. It goes by several other common names too, including wheatgrass and couch grass. Wild rye is related to wheat, rye, and other grains frequently used to make cereal and bread products.
Fowl manna is another grass that you can plant in the Louisville area. Fowl manna is hardy, which makes it a good choice for novice gardeners. This grass survives in a range of temperatures. In the wild, it ranges from Alaska to Mexico. It can also be grown in either a sunny yard or on a property with partial shade. No matter where it grows, however, it prefers moderate to moist soil.
There are many great options available for beautifying a Louisville yard. If you're not sure where to begin, or if you need help deciding which grasses to get, don't hesitate to contact Lawn Love, your local lawn care specialists, for assistance.