Published on 02/24/11

New UGA ornamental grasses grow fast but tame

By Jonathan Andrews

The University of Georgia recently released two drought-tolerant, disease-resistant ornamental grasses that can grow from a seedling to a full plant in one month. And, they don’t produce seed or pollen.

Princess Caroline and Princess Molly were developed by Wayne Hanna, a plant breeder with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in Tifton, Ga. The well known turfgrass breeder named the varieties after his granddaughters. The grasses are patented and licensed through the UGA Research Foundation.

“One of the biggest benefits about them is they don’t produce any seed, they don’t produce any pollen,” Hanna said. “So, they stay pretty vegetative, and the benefit of that is you only get what you plant.”

It also means the plants won’t invade into other areas of the landscape, he said.

Princess Caroline will grow three to four feet tall. Princess Molly reaches only 18 inches tall. Princess Caroline is a lot more vigorous, but both can grow in some shade. For best results, though, give them a lot of sun, he said.

Because it is smaller, Princess Molly will do better in the landscape if it doesn’t have a lot of tall competition. It will also thrive in a large pot.

The grasses are fairly maintenance free, he said. A small amount of fertilizer at the beginning of the season is OK, but don’t fertilize too much for a desirable ornamental grass. They need water to get established. But once they are growing, they are very hearty plants for the southern climate.

From Atlanta south, both grasses will overwinter and come back each spring. North of Atlanta and depending on the winter, they should be treated like annuals that die due to the cold.

Princess Molly and Princess Caroline will be available this spring at nurseries and other retail outlets across the country. Currently, four growers in Alabama and five in Georgia are propagating the plants.

Jonathan Andrews is a student writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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