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Austrostipa elegantissima
( Australian Feather Grass )

Species in the grass family (Poaceae)have narrow grasslike foliage, with leaf veins typically parallel to one another, and the leaf margins are most often smooth. With a few exceptions, such as bamboo, most grasses are herbaceous, meaning they do not develop woody tissues. Roots of grasses form a fibrous mass and enable the plant to survive long-term dry periods. Stems are composed of solids joints, called nodes, serparated by segments called internodes. Nodes are the points of attachment for leaves. Flowers, and later seeds, are borne in spikes, racemes or panicles, on a central stem. Grasses spread horizontally by stolons or rhizomes, and reproduce by seed as well. Fertlizing ornamental grasses can result in over-lush growth and unmanageability. A. elegantissima is clump-forming, to 3 feet tall. Airy flower panicles are produced in response to rain, from spring to fall. The inflorescences accumulate over the season, drying to silver. Foliage is evergreen in mild climates, but looks best if cut to the ground in winter.


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Characteristics
Cultivar:n/a  
Family:Poaceae  
Size:Height: 0.33 ft. to 3 ft.
Width: 0 ft. to 0 ft.  
Plant Category:landscape, ornamental grasses and bamboos, perennials,  
Plant Characteristics:low maintenance, seed start, spreading,  
Foliage Characteristics:deciduous,  
Foliage Color:green,  
Flower Characteristics:nodding, pendent,  
Flower Color:creams, greens, whites,  
Tolerances:deer, drought, pollution, slope, wind,  
Requirements
Bloomtime Range:not applicable  
USDA Hardiness Zone:8 to 8  
AHS Heat Zone:Not defined for this plant  
Light Range:Dappled to Full Sun  
pH Range:5.5 to 6.5  
Soil Range:Some Sand to Some Clay  
Water Range:Dry to Moist  

Plant Care



Fertilizing
Light
Conditions : Dappled Light

Dappled Light refers to a dappled pattern of light created on the ground, as cast by light passing through high tree branches. This is the middle ground, not considered shady, but not sunny either. Dappled remains constant throughout the day.

Conditions : Part Sun

Part Sun refers to filtered light, with most sun being received during the afternoon hours. Shade usually occurs during the morning hours.

Conditions : Light Conditions

Unless a site is completely exposed, light conditions will change during the day and even during the year. The northern and eastern sides of a house receive the least amount of light, with the northern exposure being the shadiest. The western and southern sides of a house receive the most light and are considered the hottest exposures due to intense afternoon sun.

You will notice that sun and shade patterns change during the day. The western side of a house may even be shady due to shadows cast by large trees or a structure from an adjacent property. If you have just bought a new home or just beginning to garden in your older home, take time to map sun and shade throughout the day. You will get a more accurate feel for your site's true light conditions.

Conditions : Filtered Light

For many plants that prefer partially shady conditions, filtered light is ideal. Good planting sites are under a mid to large sized tree that lets some light through their branches or beneath taller plants that will provide some protection.

Conditions : Partial Sun, Partial Shade

Part sun or part shade plants prefer light that is filtered. Sunlight, though not direct, is important to them. Often morning sun, because it is not as strong as afternoon sun, can be considered part sun or part shade. If you live in an area that does not get much intense sun, such as the Pacific Northwest, a full sun exposure may be fine. In other areas such as Florida, plant in a location where afternoon shade will be received.

Conditions : Full to Partial Sun

Full sunlight is needed for many plants to assume their full potential. Many of these plants will do fine with a little less sunlight, although they may not flower as heavily or their foliage as vibrant. Areas on the southern and western sides of buildings usually are the sunniest. The only exception is when houses or buildings are so close together, shadows are cast from neighboring properties. Full sun usually means 6 or more hours of direct unobstructed sunlight on a sunny day. Partial sun receives less than 6 hours of sun, but more than 3 hours. Plants able to take full sun in some climates may only be able to tolerate part sun in other climates. Know the culture of the plant before you buy and plant it!

Conditions : Light and Plant Selection

For best plant performance, it is desirable to match the correct plant with the available light conditions. Right plant, right place! Plants which do not receive sufficient light may become pale in color, have fewer leaves and a "leggy" stretched-out appearance. Also expect plants to grow slower and have fewer blooms when light is less than desirable. It is possible to provide supplemental lighting for indoor plants with lamps. Plants can also receive too much light. If a shade loving plant is exposed to direct sun, it may wilt and/or cause leaves to be sunburned or otherwise damaged.

Conditions : Full Sun

Full Sun is defined as exposure to more than 6 hours of continuous, direct sun per day.

Watering
How-to : Xeriscaping

Xeriscaping is a method of planting which promotes naturally drought tolerant plants and water saving methods. Much consideration is given not only to the plants chosen for the design, but the design itself. Lawns are greatly decreased in size and usually located in the center of plantings at a lower grade as to catch any runoff. Shrubs requiring the most water, are conservatively used and thoughtfully placed, where they may be easily watered, preferably from runoff, and moisture conserved. There is a strong emphasis on using native plants, which a purist will do exclusively. At the very least, improved cultivars of natives are highly recommended.

Irrigation maybe used to supplement watering, but takes a creative turn in the form of drip systems and recycled catch water. Organic mulches in the form of compost, straws, and barks are also used to retain as much water as possible. In extremely dry areas, it is not uncommon for gravel and rocks to serve as the mulch.

A xeriphytic landscape is one that takes your particular site into consideration. A plant that maybe considered low water usage in one area of the country, may not be in another area, due to climatic stresses.

Problems : Waterlogged Soil and Solutions

Waterlogged soil occurs when more water is added to soil than can drain out in a reasonable amount of time. This can be a severe problem where water tables are high or soils are compacted. Lack of air space in waterlogged soil makes it almost impossible for soil to drain. Few plants, except for bog plants, can tolerate these conditions. Drainage must be improved if you are not satisfied with bog gardening. Over-watered plants have the same wilted leaves as under-watered plants. Fungi such as Phytophthora and Pythium affect vascular systems, which cause wilt.

If the problem is only on the surface, it maybe diverted to a drainage ditch. If drainage is poor where water table is high, install an underground drainage system. You should contact a contractor for this. If underground drains already exist, check to see if they are blocked.

French drains are another option. French drains are ditches that have been filled with gravel. It is okay to plant sod on top of them. More obtrusive, but a good solution where looks aren't as important, think of the French drain as a ditch filled with gravel. Ditches should be 3 to 4 feet deep and have sloping sides.

A soakway is a gravel filled pit where water is diverted to via underground pipes. This works well on sites that have compacted soil. Your soakway should be about 6'wide and deep and filled with gravel or crushed stone, topped with sand and sodded or seeded.

Keep in mind that it is illegal to divert water onto other people's property. If you do not feel that you can implement a workable solution on your own, call a contractor.

Conditions : Regular Moisture for Outdoor Plants

Water when normal rainfall does not provide the preferred 1 inch of moisture most plants prefer. Average water is needed during the growing season, but take care not to overwater. The first two years after a plant is installed, regular watering is important. The first year is critical. It is better to water once a week and water deeply, than to water frequently for a few minutes.

Conditions : Moist and Well Drained

Moist and well drained means exactly what it sounds like. Soil is moist without being soggy because the texture of the soil allows excess moisture to drain away. Most plants like about 1 inch of water per week. Amending your soil with compost will help improve texture and water holding or draining capacity. A 3 inch layer of mulch will help to maintain soil moisture and studies have shown that mulched plants grow faster than non-mulched plants.

Conditions : Outdoor Watering

Plants are almost completely made up of water so it is important to supply them with adequate water to maintain good plant health. Not enough water and roots will wither and the plant will wilt and die. Too much water applied too frequently deprives roots of oxygen leading to plant diseases such as root and stem rots. The type of plant, plant age, light level, soil type and container size all will impact when a plant needs to be watered. Follow these tips to ensure successful watering:

* The key to watering is water deeply and less frequently. When watering, water well, i.e. provide enough water to thoroughly saturate the root ball. With in-ground plants, this means thoroughly soaking the soil until water has penetrated to a depth of 6 to 7 inches (1' being better). With container grown plants, apply enough water to allow water to flow through the drainage holes.

* Try to water plants early in the day or later in the afternoon to conserve water and cut down on plant stress. Do water early enough so that water has had a chance to dry from plant leaves prior to night fall. This is paramount if you have had fungus problems.

* Don't wait to water until plants wilt. Although some plants will recover from this, all plants will die if they wilt too much (when they reach the permanent wilting point).

* Consider water conservation methods such as drip irrigation, mulching, and xeriscaping. Drip systems which slowly drip moisture directly on the root system can be purchased at your local home and garden center. Mulches can significantly cool the root zone and conserve moisture.

* Consider adding water-saving gels to the root zone which will hold a reserve of water for the plant. These can make a world of difference especially under stressful conditions. Be certain to follow label directions for their use.



Conditions : Normal Watering for Outdoor Plants

Normal watering means that soil should be kept evenly moist and watered regularly, as conditions require. Most plants like 1 inch of water a week during the growing season, but take care not to over water. The first two years after a plant is installed, regular watering is important for establishment. The first year is critical. It is better to water once a week and water deeply, than to water frequently for a few minutes.

Planting
How-to : Preparing Garden Beds

Use a soil testing kit to determine the acidity or alkalinity of the soil before beginning any garden bed preparation. This will help you determine which plants are best suited for your site. Check soil drainage and correct drainage where standing water remains. Clear weeds and debris from planting areas and continue to remove weeds as soon as they come up.

A week to 10 days before planting, add 2 to 4 inches of aged manure or compost and work into the planting site to improve fertility and increase water retention and drainage. If soil composition is weak, a layer of topsoil should be considered as well. No matter if your soil is sand or clay, it can be improved by adding the same thing: organic matter. The more, the better; work deep into the soil. Prepare beds to an 18 inch deep for perennials. This will seem like a tremendous amount of work now, but will greatly pay off later. Besides, this is not something that is easily done later, once plants have been established.

How-to : Pinching and Thinning Perennials

Once you plant a perennial, it does not mean that you will enjoy years of maintenance-free gardening. Perennials need to be cared for just like any other plant. One thing that distinguishes perennials is that they tend to be active growers that have to be thinned out occasionally or they will loose vigor.

As perennials establish, it is important to prune them back and thin them out occasionally. This will prevent them from completely taking over an area to the exclusion of other plants, and also will increase air circulation thereby reducing the incidence of diseases like botrytis and powdery mildew.

Many species also flower abundantly and produce ample seed. As blooms fade it is advisable to deadhead your plant; that is, to remove spent flowers before they form seed. This will prevent your plants from seeding all over the garden and will conserve the considerable energy it takes the plant to produce seed.

As perennials mature, they may form a dense root mass that eventually leads to a less vigorous plant. It is advisable to occasionally thin out a stand of such perennials. By dividing the root system, you can make new plants to plant in another area of the garden or give away. Also root pruning will stimulate new growth and rejuvenate the plant. Most perennials may be successfully divided in either spring or fall. Do a little homework; some perennials do have a preference.

How-to : Planting Perennials

Determine appropriate perennials for your garden by considering sun and shade through the day, exposure, water requirements, climate, soil makeup, seasonal color desired, and position of other garden plants and trees.

The best times to plant are spring and fall, when soil is workable and out of danger of frost. Fall plantings have the advantage that roots can develop and not have to compete with developing top growth as in the spring. Spring is more desirable for perennials that dislike wet conditions or for colder areas, allowing full establishment before first winter. Planting in summer or winter is not advisable for most plants, unless planting a more established sized plant.

To plant container-grown plants: Prepare planting holes with appropriate depth and space between. Water the plant thoroughly and let the excess water drain before carefully removing from the container. Carefully loosen the root ball and place the plant in the hole, working soil around the roots as you fill. If the plant is extremely root bound, separate roots with fingers. A few slits made with a pocket knife are okay, but should be kept to a minimum. Continue filling in soil and water thoroughly, protecting from direct sun until stable.

To plant bare-root plants: Plant as soon as possible after purchase. Prepare suitable planting holes, spread roots and work soil among roots as you fill in. Water well and protect from direct sun until stable.

To plant seedlings: A number of perennials produce self-sown seedlings that can be transplanted. You may also start your own seedling bed for transplanting. Prepare suitable planting holes, spacing appropriately for plant development. Gently lift the seedling and as much surrounding soil as possible with your garden trowel, and replant it immediately, firming soil with fingertips and water well. Shade from direct sun and water regularly until stable.

Problems
Pest : Mealybugs

Small, wingless, dull-white, soft-bodied insects that produce a waxy powdery covering. They have piercing/sucking mouth parts that suck the sap out of plant tissue. Mealybugs often look like small pieces of cotton and they tend to congregate where leaves and stems branch. They attack a wide range of plants. The young tend to move around until they find a suitable feeding spot, then they hang out in colonies and feed. Mealybugs can weaken a plant leading to yellow foliage and leaf drop. They also produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface fungal growth called sooty mold.

Prevention and Control: Isolate infested plants from those that are not. Consult your local garden center professional or the Cooperative Extension office in your county for a legal insecticide/chemical recommendation. Encourage natural enemies such as lady beetles in the garden to help reduce population levels of mealy bugs.

Weeds : Preventing Weeds and Grass

Weeds rob your plants of water, nutrients and light. They can harbor pests and diseases. Before planting, remove weeds either by hand or by spraying an herbicide according to label directions. Another alternative is to lay plastic over the area for a couple of months to kill grass and weeds.

You may apply a pre-emergent herbicide prior to planting, but be sure that it is labeled for the plants you are wishing to grow. Existing beds may be spot sprayed with a nonselective herbicide, but be careful to shield those plants you do not want to kill. Non-selective means that it will kill everything it comes in contact with.

Mulch plants with a 3 inch layer of pinestraw, pulverized bark, or compost. Mulch conserves moisture, keeps weeds down, and makes it easier to pull when necessary.

Porous landscape or open weave fabric works too, allowing air and water to be exchanged.

Miscellaneous
Conditions : Fall Color

Fall color is the result of trees or shrubs changing colors according to complex chemical formulas present in their leaves. Depending on how much iron, magnesium, phosphorus, or sodium is in the plant, and the acidity of the chemicals in the leaves, leaves might turn amber, gold, red, orange or just fade from green to brown. Scarlet oaks, red maples and sumacs, for instance, have a slightly acidic sap, which causes the leaves to turn bright red. The leaves of some varieties of ash, growing in areas where limestone is present, will turn a regal purplish-blue.

Although many people believe that cooler temperatures are responsible for the color change, the weather has nothing to do with it at all. As the days grow shorter and the nights longer, a chemical clock inside the trees starts up, releasing a hormone which restricts the flow of sap to each leaf. As fall progresses, the sap flow slows and chlorophyll, the chemical that gives the leaves their green color in the spring and summer, disappears. The residual sap becomes more concentrated as it dries, creating the colors of fall.

Glossary : Naturalizing

Naturalizing refers to planting in a random pattern, much as itwould occur in nature. If you spend any time in the woods, you've probably noticed that plants often grow in groups. The center of the group is dense and towards the edges, plants are located farther apart. Narcissus bulbs are easy to naturalize if you use this method: fill a bucket with bulbs and toss them out. Plant them where they fall. You will notice a portion of the bulbs are close together while the others have scattered farther away.

Glossary : Specimen

A specimen can be a tree, shrub, ground cover, annual, or perennial that is unique in comparison to the surrounding plants. Uniqueness may be in color, form, texture, or size. By using only one specimen plant in a visual area, it can be showcased. Specimen plants are accents in the landscape, just as statues, water features, or arbors.

Glossary : Perennial

Perennial: traditionally a non-woody plant that lives for two or more growing seasons.

Glossary : Tolerant

Tolerant refers to a plant's ability to tolerate exposure to an external condition(s). It does not mean that the plant thrives or prefers this situation, but is able to adapt and continue its life cycle.

Glossary : Drought Tolerant

Very few plants, except for those naturally found in desert situations, can tolerate arid soils, but there are plants that seem to be more drought tolerant than others. Plants that are drought tolerant still require moisture, so don't think that they can go for extended period without any water. Drought tolerant plants are often deep rooted, have waxy or thick leaves that conserve water, or leaf structures that close to minimize transpiration. All plants in droughty situations benefit from an occasional deep watering and a 2-3 inch thick layer of mulch. Drought tolerant plants are the backbone of xeriphytic landscaping.

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