Good riddance Northern Sea Oats

Just short of four years ago, I raved about a plant that I had only recently discovered at that time.

I implore you to please ignore that post as I am here today to take everything back I had gleefully written on that balmy July afternoon in 2010.

I can now state with 100% confidence that I despise and will never entertain the idea of planting a Chasmanthium latifolium (Northern Sea Oats) again in my life. In fact, in terms of worst garden decisions I’ve ever made, planting a mass of NSO in a moist and open location ranks only behind my asinine decision to plant mint in a raised bed that had zero means of containing said thug.

While the grass has its appeal with the oh so pretty little oats.      

It reseeds like a mutha f’er in every possible nook and cranny and they are impossible to pull out cleanly.


In the Fall of 2012, I attempted to control the reseeding by cutting the grasses down early and removing the “oats”.    


That failed miserably and did not make a dent in my quest to control the seedlings from taking over. They were everywhere that spring. I was SOL with the NSO and it made me an angry SOB, PDQ.


As this spring approached I looked back on some of my old photos to see if I could justify keeping these around any longer. As you can see in the pic below, they aren’t exactly “appealing to the eye” in front of the three Panicum ‘Northwind’. Yes, you can question my design sense with that combo, but you really can’t question the fact that these ain’t all that good looking.


While I am kind of the king of over promising and under delivering (for proof, click here and here) I vowed to finally take corrective action this spring. And I am happy to report that is exactly what this world class gardener recently accomplished.

I dug out and disposed of the mass of Northern Sea Oats and a trillion seedlings, planted two new Clethra ‘Ruby Spice’ in their wake, placed cardboard down over a large section of the “affected” area and mulched heavily.

It is truly only a start, but “Operation NSO Removal” is underway.

More to come.

11 thoughts on “Good riddance Northern Sea Oats

  1. Indie

    Good luck! It probably depends on what type of garden you have, though. I dared to plant them in my garden in North Carolina, since not much seeded itself on that pure slab of clay except for crabgrass. Here in Massachusetts, though, I think I will decline from planting such an over-exuberant plant. Which is too bad, because they are so darn pretty!

  2. HellofromMD

    We all have planted a thug, not realizing the harm we do to ourselves especially in the beginning. I planted the chameleon plant. Now I hate it with a purple passion, but haven’t been able to get rid of it.

  3. On My Soapbox

    Glad you were able to get rid of your garden thug. I planted a firetwig dogwood once. Never again! Oh, and I finally got rid of the nightshade. Yes, I’m a slow learner.

  4. Deborah

    I so remember you posting the Northern Sea Oats. It answered the identity for me
    as I had wanted to know what type of grass was growing in an entrance garden I was working for. Just 2 plants receiving morning sun/ afternoon shade (no clay soil)
    a little mulch around them and minimal water. I had no problem with it!

  5. katrina lindquist

    My goodness, well written and THANK you for sharing about your garden bully and making me laugh at the same time. If we can’t laugh at ourselves we are lost! Way to go.

  6. Laura

    I have just begun the battle. Unfortunately, I may have to sacrifice other grasses in the fight, as these :)@! Sea Oats have managed to sprout up right in the middle. I rue the day I decided these would be an attractive addition to the perennial border.

  7. kathy

    Fair warning to anyone thinking of planting NSO: It took a few years for me to regret planting this “gift” from a fellow floral design person. NSO has spread right into the middle of Monkshood, Cone Flower and Day Lily plants, making them hard to pull/dig without damaging the other plants. They seemed easier to pull in Spring but I bet I left roots behind. Tomorrow I am digging out the original planting and any strays I can find. I fear it will take another year to be rid of it all.

  8. Judy Stone

    I’m in TN, and will never again plant anything with “Northern” in its name. It loves our weather-maybe in the north its not so vigorous. I so love the oats but it’s just not worth it. Same goes for cannas. Getting rid of NSO and cannas will be the death of me

  9. Joanne Z

    This could have been written by me and I am now in the process of trying to remove any and all sea oats from a 10×10 garden bed .
    It seems the only solution is to dig them up. Root system is a beast to get out cleanly .
    Yes, my biggest gardening fail ever!

    1. jmarkowski Post author

      Like going back to a nightmare. I’m still pulling them out almost daily and they are impossible to pick cleanly. Hate them with such a passion!!

Comments are closed.