If you like low maintenance and you have lots of sun and well-drained soil, you’ll love Elliott’s lovegrass (Eragrostis elliottii – pronounced EAR ah grohs tis ell ee OTT ee eye) and purple lovegrass (Eragrostis spectabilis – pronounced EAR ah grohs tis SPECK tah buh liss). That is their preferred growing condition; but if you have only so-so sun and moist loam that is occasionally inundated with fresh or brackish water, you can still enjoy these two perennial native grasses in your landscape. They are that tolerant of a wide variety of conditions . . . drought tolerant, salt tolerant *, hardy to minus 10 degrees . . . you can hardly go wrong with these plants. Having said that, do not plant them in heavy clay or deep shade.
Elliott’s lovegrass and purple lovegrass are clump forming with fine-textured leaf blades. Elliott's are a pretty silvery-blue-green, and purple lovegrass foliage is green (occasionally with a reddish tinge at the tip). Their rate of growth is fast; but with their short rhizomes, they spread slowly. They grow to a height of two to two and a half feet here in Tallahassee. Apparently they can get a little taller further south where they do not die back in the winter. They both work well in rain gardens, as specimen plants or in a mass planting and are attractive to birds and butterflies.
You’ll enjoy them most in the late summer and fall when they bloom. Elliott’s lovegrass has white to tan blossoms, and (you guessed it) purple lovegrass’ blossoms are a reddish purple. The UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions site describes these wispy blossoms as resembling ‘a tinted mist above the foliage’. I think that’s an excellent description.
* Tolerates moderate amounts of salt wind without injury and occasional (but not long-term) flooding by salt or brackish water.
At Native Nurseries, we typically stock Elliott's lovegrass and purple lovegrass in 1-gallon pots. Currently we do have some in stock. As always, give us a call to check availability before making a special trip (although we’re always happy to see you). Sorry . . . we do not ship plants.
Some information for this blog post came from the following sources –
http://ucl.broward.edu/wildflower_central.htm - Purple lovegrass photo