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7 native grasses to consider for your landscape project.

CA Native Grasses | Pacific Nurseries

California native grasses can be a thoughtful and attractive addition to just about any Bay Area landscape.



According to the California Native Plant Society | CNPS, native California plants provide several attractive benefits for both landscape professionals and their clients when creating and maintaining a thoughtful, attractive and efficient garden.

Native plants offer:

  • Water savings
  • Low maintenance
  • Reduced use of pesticides
  • Support for native wildlife
  • Local ecology enhancement
  • Beautiful appearance

A unique and important role for grasses.

California native grasses play a unique and important role in providing cover, nesting materials, and additional food sources for beneficial, garden-friendly wildlife.

They also provide the aesthetic design benefits of contrast, loose structural form and interesting leaf variety. Best of all, they’re unmatched for their graceful, flowing movement throughout the seasons.

Over 300 species of native grasses are found in California and they are an integral part of diverse habitats including: cool, wet forests to hot, dry deserts.

In their natural environment, native grasses typically occur in groups with bare ground between them and where wildflowers grow. And when grasses get a bit messy while going to seed, this is exactly what seed-eaters and butterflies hope for as the seeds provide food for nourishment and survival.

Most native ornamental grasses prefer lots of sun and will be tolerant of drought once they’re established. However, many species improve their appearance with occasional water during dry periods.

The deep roots of native grasses stabilize soil, increase water infiltration, and recycle nutrients. When native grasses are planted in urban environments, their unique qualities can even help to filter polluted runoff.

Native rangeland grasses also excel in sequestering carbon to help reduce air pollutants and mitigate the effects of climate change.
CA native grasses offer so many aesthetic and ecological benefits. Click To Tweet

A wide selection of specimens, forms, colors and sizes.

With so many aesthetic and ecological benefits, it makes sense to consider California native grasses for your next installation. At Pacific Nurseries, we have a wide selection of native grasses in many container sizes in our over 36 acres of inventory.

Below is a list of a few featured specimens that we think you’ll find particularly attractive for just about any Bay Area landscape:

Bouteloua gracilis

Bouteloua gracilis | Pacific Nurseries

Bouteloua gracilis | Pacific Nurseries


This low growing species is native to a vast majority of the US and it grows well in hot, dry regions of California. It’s semi-evergreen and it shuts off growth as weather cools in our Bay Area Fall and Winter seasons. It’s also a great candidate for replacing a water-wasting lawn.

Festuca californica

Festuca californica | Pacific Nurseries

Festuca californica | Pacific Nurseries

This native grass is a robust medium bunchgrass with glaucus evergreen foliage associated with brush lands and deciduous oak forests. It’s an excellent option for shady or filtered light settings. It features airy flowers and provides great contrast and leaf texture in an installation.

Leymus condensatus ‘Canyon Prince’

Leymus condensatus 'Canyon Prince' | Pacific Nurseries

Leymus condensatus ‘Canyon Prince’ | Pacific Nurseries

A compact and blue-leaved form of Leymus condensatus, this beauty tolerates both sun and shade. It also does well when irrigated and when water is restricted in drought conditions. Its foliage makes this a brilliant accent and over time, it becomes a resilient, hearty and handsome addition to just about any garden.

Calamagrostis foliosa

Calamagrostis foliosa | Pacific Nurseries

Calamagrostis foliosa | Pacific Nurseries

This is a perennial bunchgrass that is native to California and endemic to the state. It produces a tuft of stems about 1 to 2 feet tall with the leaves mostly located about the base of the stems.

Carex tumulicola

Carex tumulicola | Pacific Nurseries

Carex tumulicola | Pacific Nurseries

This wispy and free form grass is found in western North America, from British Columbia to California. It has a height and width of approximately 2 feet and is slowly spreading. It’s a great native grass solution for use in meadows and open woodlands.

Carex testacea

Carex testacea | Pacific Nurseries

Carex testacea | Pacific Nurseries

This beauty is not a California native. But it’s one of the hardiest of the New Zealand Hair Sedges and one of our favorites. It forms striking mounds of narrow, bronzy-orange leaves and when exposed to sunlight, the foliage seems to shimmer with movement. It’s a striking solution in rock gardens as well as containers. And it prefers exposure to partial sun with regular watering.

Carex praegracilis

Carex praegracilis | Pacific Nurseries

Carex praegracilis | Pacific Nurseries

This handsome species is a monocot and perennial grass like herb that is native to California. It produces sharply triangular stems up to 2-3 feet tall from a network of thin, coarse rhizomes. The inflorescence is a dense, somewhat cylindrical array of flower spikes up about 1-1-1/2” long. It’s a great lawn substitute and ideal for meadow settings.

CA native grasses: a thoughtful and beautiful addition to any Bay Area landscape. Click To Tweet

Low maintenance with beauty all year long.

Native grasses can be a thoughtful and attractive addition to just about any Bay Area landscape. And by following some of the low care tips below, you’ll ensure that your clients will thank you for your guidance in helping them save water and reduce maintenance work in their garden.

Installation Care and Maintenance

Planting
Although most California natives can be planted at any time of year, it is best to put them in the ground during the Fall and early Winter. This gives them time to establish a healthy root system and build the energy for new growth and stunning floral displays in Spring and Summer.

Watering
Many native plants can survive with minimal supplemental water once they have become established (after 2-5 years). Some native species can maintain a healthy appearance for much of the year while being watered occasionally each month.
Soil
Most native plants perform better without any fertilizer. Extra nutrients push plants to grow quickly, sometimes beyond naturally supportable levels, and can shorten their life span. Adding a layer of mulch helps to slow water evaporation, discourage weed germination, and create a favorable environment for creating beneficial biological bacteria.

Want to know more about CA native grasses?

If you want to discuss or learn more about California native grasses, feel free to contact any of our experts at Pacific Nurseries. As both a grower and a plant broker, we’re ready to work with you to provide just the right plants that will make your project a water-wise success. It’s one of the many qualities that makes us different from just an ordinary nursery.

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  • Tyler,

    Thank you for the tips, …. you’re right on target.

    Frank Valle