Native grasses for my yard?

Asked October 3, 2019, 7:11 PM EDT

Hi! I want to change my yard over to native grasses, but am having trouble finding online what native seeds I can buy to do so.

If it helps, I'm looking for full sun, part sun/part shade, and mainly shade seeds. They all do not have to be same seed/plant or in same package.

I did not know until this year that most yard seed mixes are non-native.

I have a few oak sedges started, but I read that they don't really spread via seed, so I'll keep buying those plants for the shadier areas.

We have 2 large dogs on a quarter acre, so definitely need something that 1. Doesn't require much water during dry times 2. Is dog-resistant and 3, if possible, doesn't require much mowing or can tolerate some mowing.

Any suggestions/links would be helpful.

Thank you!

Franklin County Ohio

1 Response

Thanks for using Ask a Master Gardener with your question about native grasses for Ohio. There is lots of information on the types of grasses that are native to Ohio.

One thing I will tell you at the beginning is that most of the native grasses are bunch grasses, meaning that they will not provide what we traditionally would call a turf lawn. The tend to grow as a clump and do not spread by rhizomes as the non-native grasses we have used for turf. The sedges will spread by rhizomes.

With that said, there are a large list of grasses that could be introduced that would take the situations you described. Being native plants, they will survive our weather conditions without much intervention on your part, i.e. water, fertilizer, mowing.
However, most of the grasses other than the sedges may be too tall for what you are considering.

From the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, here is a list of grass species for sunny locations:

big bluestem
sideoats gramma
prairie brome, wild chess Canada wild rye
purple lovegrass switchgrass
little bluestem
Indian grass

Here is a list for the shady sides:

woodland brome
oak sedge
wing-stemmed wood sedge common wood sedge beech sedge Davis' sedge blue-green sedge slender wood sedge hairy-leaved sedge James' sedge weak-stemmed wood sedge two-edged sedge larger straw sedge Pennsylvania sedge plantain-leaved sedge broad-leaved wood sedge Wildenow's sedge beak grass bottlebrush grass forest blue grass

These lists can be found at:

Of these plants listed, I find that the Pennsylvania Sedge forms one of the most attractive lawn look.

You stated that you are having trouble locating seed. While The Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program does not provide vendor information, I did a quick internet search of "Ohio Native Grasses" and "Ohio Native Grasses for Lawns" and found a few Ohio nurseries and ones still in the Midwest that are growing and selling seed for Native Grasses. They would be most helpful at providing you with information and selling you seed that you might want. You will need a specialty nursery to find the seed you are looking for. Do not be fooled as not all grasses being sold by some of the links are natives, especially those that look like turf grass.

The last thing I might tell you is that native grasses generally are controlled or encouraged to grow by burning off the residue from previous years of growth. I understand that you will not be able to do that because of your location and size. You may need to physically cut and remove some of the top growth as the areas develop. Again, these grasses will not provide what we know as the suburban lawn, that simply is not the way they grow.

I hope this has helped you, I understand that you want sources, but that is beyond what this program can provide. If you have additional questions or need more information, please ask us. Thanks for your question.