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Planting Palette: Grasses Aristida junciformis

Aristida junciformis has become a favourite in my landscaping as they introduce fine-textures into the planting palette. They are neutral and so can be combined with many low and medium growing plants.

Aristida junciformis has a worldwide distribution, growing from Africa through to Australia and North America. It is not to be confused with the Pennisetum grass family, although they do look quite similar. They enjoy a sunny position and medium watering in the summer.

During the sunny warm months these grasses appear bright green, adding wonderful energy and presence in the garden. They flower during the late summer months producing mauve feathery plumes.

In the autumn and winter the seed-heads and leaves take on a blonde straw-like appearance as they dry on the plant. Come spring time new green growth is produced at ground level and this rises up through the dried leaves quickly becoming dominant as the summer rolls on.

Maintenance and care:

Aristida grow to a height and width of around 80cm. They are taller than the average ground cover and smaller than most shrubs. As a grass they expand sideways thickening from the base forming a mounded but upright shape.

To keep them looking their best simply cut away the outer 5-10cm ring of leaves at the base of the grass with sharp secateurs. By removing the outer growth the plant will appear upright and look like brand new. Only do this if you need to.

Placement tips:

I use Aristida to add interest to the mid-ground of beds. They are excellent bringing out the best qualities of neighboring plants thus use them to separate other planted species.

When planted en-masse Aristida is brilliant at accentuating architecture, especially modern architecture. It’s perfect for a minimalist landscapes and especially when combined with rocks, river boulders or pebbles. In these settings they can be combined with Agapanthus, giant Liriope, most succulents.

Aristida junciformis

Aristida has soft green needle-like leaves that are a perfect complement to most large Aloe species. The alliance of opposites is quite striking. Use with Aloe species like bansii, cooperii, ferrox, marlothii and ferrox.

This also applies to controlled hedges whether linear boxed boundary hedges or clipped rounded topiary shapes. So plant en-masse along the base of the hedge and use Aristida to draw attention to your sculptured shrubs.

Planting companions:

Agapanthus, Leucadendrons, Aloe varieties, Aloe marlothii, ferrox, cooperii, bansii, mutabilis, Euphorbia mauritanica, Felecia, Gaura, Buchu varieties and the Salvia family.