Northern Sea Oats

Northern Sea Oats Overview

Description The bobbing flat seedheads of Northern sea oats are distinctive, almost looking like little buff to bronze fish. It's one of the best ornamental grasses for partial shade, although it grows well in full sun, too. The arching seed heads mature to golden bronze and are effective in fresh or dried arrangements. Leave this plant standing in winter if you like -- it's attractive with a dusting of snow. However, if you want to prevent this prolific reseeder from popping up everywhere, cut off the seed heads in fall.
Genus Name Chasmanthium latifolium
Common Name Northern Sea Oats
Plant Type Perennial
Light Part Sun, Sun
Height 1 to 3 feet
Width 18 to 30 inches
Flower Color Green
Season Features Colorful Fall Foliage, Fall Bloom, Summer Bloom, Winter Interest
Special Features Cut Flowers, Low Maintenance
Zones 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Propagation Division, Seed
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant

Garden Plans For Northern Sea Oats


Prized for Seed Heads

Add texture to your landscape with Northern sea oats. This easy-to-grow native grass stands just 2 feet tall and reveals flat green seed heads in midsummer that slowly turn bronze then copper by early fall. The slightest breeze flowing through a clump of grass will rustle the dry seed heads, creating a pleasing type of garden music. Northern sea oats are a fabulous cutting flower. Snip the seed stems shortly after they begin to turn bronze for a long-lasting fresh or dried bouquet.

Planting Ideas

Northern sea oats are native to moist, woodland edges which makes them a great addition to part-shade gardens. Create a woodland meadow with a collection of shade-tolerant grasses. You'll love the easy-care aspect of a meadow planting and count on a bounty of color and texture year-round. Other great grasses for part-shade sites include tufted hair grass (Deschampsia cespitosa), Korean feather reed grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha), Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra), and sedges.

Design a dreamy patrial shade garden using this plan.

Northern Sea Oats Care Must-Knows

Northern sea oats are a great grass for part-shade sites. Many grasses demand full sun for strong, upright growth and good color, but this tough perennial grows best in partial shade. Count on its leaves to take on a dark green color in partial shade; full-sun plants have light green foliage. Northern sea oats grow well in fertile soil and moist, well-drained sites. It will tolerate drought with ease once it establishes a strong root system.

What is well-drained soil? Find out here.

Creeping Tendencies

There's rarely a need to plant more than one clump of Northern sea oats. This native grass spreads slowly through its rhizome habit of growth and quickly through reseeding. Prolific seed heads cast out seed in fall and the following spring will reveal a host of new Northern sea oats plants. The seedlings are easy to remove but the task can be time-consuming. Prevent bold reseeding by cutting off seed stalks in late summer.

Plant Northern Sea Oats With:

Turtlehead Chelone

This native perennial gets its name from the shape of its unusual flowers, which resemble the heads of snapping turtles. It's a good choice for heavy, wet soils and spreads to form dense colonies of upright stems bearing pink, rose, or white flowers from late summer into fall. It grows best in some shade, but tolerates full sun with adequate moisture.


For a fall show, plant leadwort. Its gentian-blue late-season flowers often continue to bloom even as the foliage turns brilliant red-orange in fall, making an outstanding autumn display. This plant is also sometimes called plumbago, but it's different from shrubby tropical plumbago. Use it as a groundcover that spreads well when in conditions it likes -- dry sites in full sun to partial shade.

Asters - Blue with Butterfly

Asters get their name from the Latin word for "star," and their flowers are indeed the superstars of the fall garden. Some types of this native plant can reach up to 6 feet with flowers in white and pinks but also, perhaps most strikingly, in rich purples and showy lavenders. Not all asters are fall bloomers. Extend the season by growing some of the summer bloomers, as well. Some are naturally compact; tall types that grow more than 2 feet tall benefit from staking or an early-season pinching or cutting back by about one-third in July or so to keep the plant more compact.

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