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Gardening 101: Basket Grass

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Gardening 101: Basket Grass

July 30, 2019

Basket Grass, Lomandra: “Your Best Mate”

I’m not much for tough guys; I prefer the sensitive artist type—except when it comes to perennial grasses. I admit to liking leafy ones that can hold their own, take care of themselves, not fuss and can just…deal. This is why I use Australia native Lomandra in so many of my garden designs. For my clients’ sake, I like to use a good portion of plants that look good year-round and sometimes stand up to rough dogs and marauding deer. If this potential partner intrigues you, please keep reading to learn more about this grass-like future mate.

Lomandra spicata. Photograph by Peter Woodard via Wikimedia.
Above: Lomandra spicata. Photograph by Peter Woodard via Wikimedia.

When I need an evergreen plant that can masquerade as a grass, I use Lomandra. When I need a plant that is low maintenance, isn’t a prima donna begging for copious amounts of sun, and just plain looks awesome year-round, I call in Lomandra.

A particularly impressive quality of this perennial herb is its versatility. Lomandra is happy in growing conditions that vary from quick-draining sandy soil to swampy, moist locations. Also, Lomandra can happily exist in a variety of light conditions, although the tonal quality of the blade may dim in low light and the leaves might not be as perky as they are in full sun.  Lomandra’s structured yet soft appearance will undoubtedly impress in most every garden setting, even when left to its own devices.

 Lomandra cylindrica. Photograph by Gardenology via Wikimedia.
Above: Lomandra cylindrica. Photograph by Gardenology via Wikimedia.

Native to Australia, Lomandra also is called basket grass because it could easily be part of the ornamental grass family for its long, narrow blade-like leaves. Another common name is mat rush, because Australian Aboriginal people apparently weaved the leaves into mats. My favorites:

 Lomandra longifolia ‘Breeze’ is the most widely used Lomandra variety in the world, prized for its compact habit, tolerance for shade, and the fact that it looks and feels like a true ornamental grass. Photograph via Dig Plant Co.
Above: Lomandra longifolia ‘Breeze’ is the most widely used Lomandra variety in the world, prized for its compact habit, tolerance for shade, and the fact that it looks and feels like a true ornamental grass. Photograph via Dig Plant Co.

L. longifolia ‘Breeze’ sports bright, pine-green foliage and is drought-tolerant and evergreen even in areas where temperatures can dip close to zero degrees.  It gracefully arches and weeps, forming symmetrical clumps  that can grow to a diameter and height of 3 feet.

Lomandra longifolia ‘Platinum Beauty’. Photograph via Peacock Horticultural Nursery.
Above: Lomandra longifolia ‘Platinum Beauty’. Photograph via Peacock Horticultural Nursery.

L. longifolia ‘Platinum Beauty’ is tough yet totally pretty. Creamy white-edged blades will brighten garden spaces and pair perfectly with white and silver foliage and flowers. This drought-tolerant and low-maintenance plant stands up to challenging environments.

Cheat Sheet

  • Lomandra is perfect for mass plantings, will add airiness to container plantings, and makes an excellent, simple border for a pathway.
  • Seaside, this grass-like choice sways and swishes to the breeze most attractively.
  • Deer-resistant and dog hardy.
  • Lomandra blends with most garden styles and will complement cottage, modern, and Japanese garden designs.
Lomandra longifolia ‘Tanika’. Photograph via Alpine Nurseries.
Above: Lomandra longifolia ‘Tanika’. Photograph via Alpine Nurseries.

Keep It Alive

  • For best long-term performance, space Lomandra plants 2.5 feet apart.
  • Basket grass is a hardy perennial in USDA growing zones 7 to 11.
  • Is troubled by few insect or disease issues.
  • If the blades appear frost damaged or show signs of wind or time abuse, simply trim back to 6 to 8 inches from the ground and the blades will spring back wonderfully.
  • Most lomandras are comfortable in full sun to mostly shaded spots.
  • Average watering and feeding produces a fuller and more lush plant.

See more growing tips in Basket Grass: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design. See more tips for designing with Perennial Grasses in our curated guides to Garden Design 101. Read more:

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