Also known as River, Northern Sea or Indian Wood oats, Inland Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) prefer partial to full shade and grow in all soil types, from moist to well-drained. The wide-leaved, light green foliage resembles bamboo. Arching stems hold flat, oat-like seed heads above the plant, creating texture, and with the slightest breeze, movement and sound in the garden.
Inland Sea Oats In Landscaping
This clump-forming perennial grass will grow to a height of 2-4 feet, with a spread of 1-2 feet, in three years or less. It is best to space plants at least two feet apart. Sea Oats make a fine single accent under a tree and are spectacularly naturalized into a colony, where it will produce a sea of gently bobbing spikelets.
A native grass in the Eastern U.S., Sea Oats can be grown in zones 3-9 and is disease resistant. For year-round landscape appeal, leave the foliage in place over the winter. The gold-to-bronze panicles will complement both evergreens and a covering of snow, creating contrast in the garden. Cut back dead stalks in early Spring when new growth emerges from the base.
Sea Oats are commonly available from seed companies and nurseries. Because of such a wide variability of plants, the USDA suggests using a local source to ensure success in your area.
Several Ways To Propagate
Inland Sea Oats quickly produce a colony, both from rhizomes and seeds that fall near the parent plant. These new plugs, as well as established clumps, transplant well.
Sea Oats can also be propagated by root division and from seed collected in the Fall. Cut seed stalks when they have just started to turn tan. Dry completely in an open container before you strip the panicles. Sea Oats are easily germinated year-round.
Useful Native Grass
On a large scale, Inland Sea Oats are invaluable in reducing soil erosion, especially in dune management, according to Richard H. Neill of the USDA-NRCS Plant Materials Center.
Sea Oat seed stalks are highly desirable in dried arrangements. Unlike other ornamental grasses, the spikelets won’t shatter.
The plants are useful in creating a backyard wildlife habitat, with the added benefit of being deer resistant. Inland Sea Oats provide food and cover for many birds, who eat the grain and use the foliage in their nests. It is a larval food plant for Skipper butterflies.