Prairie Cordgrass (Spartina pectinata) is a perennial grass native to some parts of the Midwest, notably northern and central Illinois. It grows 4-7 feet tall. The long, flat, green or yellow-green leaf blades can reach 3 feet in length and about 1 inch in width. People cultivate prairie cordgrass as a windbreak, to stabilize the banks of streams, and to provide forage and cover for birds and other wildlife.
Sun and Soil Requirements
Choose a place for the prairie cordgrass where it will receive at least partial sun (4 hours a day). The grass prefers full sun (8 hours a day), but can grow in shadier spots.
For best results, plant prairie cordgrass in light, loamy soil that drains easily. It can survive, however, in almost any sort of soil, including rocky or sandy areas or even damp ones along the edges of rivers and marshes.
If you’re planting the cordgrass along the banks of a stream to control erosion, put the grass along the upper edges of the streambed, not far enough down that rising water will soak it regularly.
Growing Prairie Cordgrass From Rhizomes
Dig up the area where you plan to plant the rhizomes to a depth of about 8 inches.
Once you’ve spaded all the soil up well, dig out rows that are 6 to 15 feet apart.
Put the rhizomes into the soil between 3-6 inches deep, with the end that has the emerging shoot at the top. Bury the entire rhizome, including the shoot, in the soil.
Stagger the positions of the rhizomes in the rows so that the plants in one row aren’t directly opposite the plants in the adjacent rows.
If you’re planting a bed of prairie cordgrass on a relatively flat area, space the plants three to six feet apart in the rows.
If you’re planting it along a stream or another site to control erosion, dig the rows out several feet above the high water line, and plant the rhizomes two to 10 feet apart in the rows. As it grows, the cordgrass will put out shoots that will run down toward the water.
Water the prairie cordgrass rhizomes regularly to make sure they never completely dry out. To check for moisture, put your fingers into the soil close to the roots of the grass. Be especially vigilant about checking regularly for moisture if the soil is sandy or rocky.
Growing Prairie Cordgrass from Seeds
If you’re planting prairie cordgrass seeds, dig the dirt up very shallowly, not more than 2 inches deep.
Broadcast the seeds over the soil and cover them up with a maximum of ¾ inch of soil.
Use about 7 pounds of seed per acre in fields where the soil stays fairly dry most of the time, or ¼ to 1 pound per acre in wetter areas.
Irrigate the seeds lightly and regularly, being careful not to wash them away, until they germinate. Then water them whenever the soil of the bed is dry to the touch. Don’t soak the cordgrass so much that water stands on the soil for several hours after you've watered.