River Oats - Chasmanthium latifolium
River oats provide landscapers with a versatile perennial grass that grows two to four feet each summer. The plant is known for its shade tolerance but gardeners report success with up to six hours of direct sunlight. River oats prefer moist areas alongside streams and wet but well-drained areas. The plant needs little maintenance, except to be cut back in the fall, and will tolerate periods of drought. It favors the rich and loamy soils of river bottoms and the shade of hardwood trees. Landscapers favor it for adding interest to shady areas. The plant also succeeds in wet sand or clay, but gardeners should avoid persistently dry soils.
The grass grows in bushy clumps that spread by seeds. Broad green leaves of up to one inch in width grow from the lower stems. The stems continue up in a narrow flower stalk that will fill in with attractive drooping panicles. These can extend for 10 inches. The feathery dangling panicles begin as a pale green and ripen to straw-colored or red tones in fall. Stalks are valued for use in floral arrangements.
Landscapers in hardiness zones 4 through 10 can expect this hardy ornamental plant to thrive. The perennial is native throughout much of the Eastern United States with the exception of New England. The plant also grows across the southern United States and even as far west as Arizona in moist areas along water according to the USDA.
River oats ship as seedlings that gardeners place two to three feet apart to create a border or backdrop. If spreading becomes a concern, a gardener can remove the seed heads before they drop or divide the roots. The plant also works for erosion control on steep banks near water or in woodlands. No diseases trouble river oats.