Native Grasses: A Must-Have for Every Grower Program

(Sponsored) The popularity of incorporating North American native plants into the landscape has never been greater than today, but it’s far from being a new trend. As the term implies, native plants have been here much longer than we have. What’s more recent, though, is the awareness of the benefits they provide, and an appreciation for what they add to gardens and commercial landscapes alike, be it as habitat for bird and insect species, food and shelter for pollinators, natural drought tolerance, erosion control, and more. And let’s not forget their natural beauty.

As a company that’s always at the forefront of industry developments and is known for its knack for anticipating consumer demands and trends, it is no wonder that Emerald Coast Growers has been growing native plants since it first opened its doors 33 years ago. The Pensacola, Florida, based liner producer carries a comprehensive line of different native grasses and many native perennials, sold in 38-count, 50-count, and 72-count trays and shipped across North America.

Emerald Coast Growers offers numerous varieties from 13 different genera of native grasses, ranging from Andropogon to Sporobolus and many in between. The company works with many excellent breeders, breeder agents and researchers across the globe to trial, select and introduce the best selections that provide grower success as well as landscape appeal and benefits. When asked if any of their native grasses are particularly popular and “on trend” right now, Shannon Ballard, New Plants Manager for Emerald Coast, replied “There are many, but if we must pick a few…the most recent popular varieties are the variegated little bluestems: Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Chameleon’ PP31339 and Schizachyrium scoparium Shining Star™ PP33433, as well as these three blue grama grasses: Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’ PP22048, Bouteloua gracilis ‘Honeycomb’ PP33101 and Bouteloua x Zig Zag™ PPAF. Their beauty combined with the benefits of native grasses makes them sure bets for any native grass program.”

When asked how Ballard has seen the demand change over the years, she stated “What we are seeing is a significant increase in the number of cultivated selections being made in native grasses. The number of varieties being offered within each genus has increased; creating demand. It is more common today to walk into your local retail nursery and see a native grass for sale than ever before. The selections being made offer more interesting colors, better habits, and overall improved performance.”

The newest addition to Emerald Coast Growers’ native grass selection is the Dream Catcher® series of Panicum. Developed by Dave MacKenzie of Hortech, three new introductions will be available from Emerald Coast:


Panicum virgatum Dream Catcher® Huggy-Purple® native plants

Panicum virgatum Dream Catcher® Huggy Purple® (‘Nonelpr’) PPAF features arching green foliage that turns to a beautiful purple in late summer. It flowers with sprays of purple panicles from August through October, with the blooms becoming progressively more purple. It grows to five feet in height, prefers full sun, and is hardy to USDA Zones 4-10.

Panicum virgatum Dream Catcher® Smoky Rose® native plants

Panicum virgatum Dream Catcher® Smoky Rose® (‘Nonesory’) PPAF is compact and versatile, and wonderful when mass planted, as an accent, or as a companion. It is the perfect neat, tidy, well-behaved plant with a tight bouquet-like habit, dark green foliage, and a crown of billowy smoky-rose flowers from mid-summer into fall. Smoky Rose® stands up to wind and rain and pairs well with numerous companions. It grows to 3.5 feet in height, prefers full sun, and is hardy to USDA Zones 4-10.

Panicum virgatum Dream Catcher® Tumbleweed® (‘Nondee’) PPAF is virtually round in shape, and when it flowers it looks like a puffy silvery-black beachball (or tumbleweed). But it doesn’t blow around in the wind; it holds up nicely to wind and rain and can be used en masse or with companions. It grows to three feet in height, prefers full sun, and is hardy to USDA Zones 4-10.

So, what does the future hold for native grasses? “We will continue to see more improved native cultivars for homeowners and commercial landscapes that bring great ornamental value while providing landscape solutions at the same time,” states Ballard. “Here at Emerald Coast we’re excited to continue our quest to bring the best cultivars to North American gardens and landscapes.”

For more information about the Dream Catcher series or any of Emerald Coast Growers plants, or to order, please visit, call 850-944-0808, or email

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