If your trees have become so dense that grass will not grow underneath, you may wish to plant Northern Sea Oats as a non-mowing alternative. Native to East Texas and much of the eastern portion of the United States, Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) is a delicate-looking ornamental grass with seed heads that droop as if hanging by a fishing line. These seed heads flutter in the breeze and give Northern Sea Oats its unique appearance.
Growing two to three feet high, this grass can multiply by both rhizomes and seed, so if you do not have space for it to spread, consider placing Northern Sea Oats in a container. I have seen this grass used in front of a modern building in a planter the length of the building. It was glorious. But you can add just a bit to a mixed planting either in pots or in the ground. It also looks lovely in flower arrangements, both fresh and dried.
Northern Sea Oats goes dormant in winter. The leaves, stems, and seed heads will turn a lovely bronze before fading to a light parchment color. In spring, cut it back. It will return year after year.
Not only is Northern Sea Oats valuable as an ornamental grass, it is the host plant for at least three butterfly species and the birds love to eat the seeds. It is considered deer resistant.
Although it will grow in full sun, it prefers a partly to mostly shady site. It will grow in sand or clay and likes to be kept moist. I’ve been quite pleased with mine placed under a tree and given room to multiply. It has spread a bit in size, but has not been aggressive. Not a true oat, this grass is also known as Indian Wood Oats, Inland Sea Oats, Upland Sea Oats, Flathead Oats, Upland Oats, River Oats, Wild Oats, and Spangle Grass.