How to Grow Oat Grass – Helictotrichon

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Helictotrichon–commonly called oat grass or blue oat grass–is an evergreen, tussock-forming perennial grass that produces fountain-like clumps of light green to bright blue-gray narrow leaves. Helictotrichon grows 2 to 3 feet (2m) tall with a graceful habit.

Helictotrichon leaves are linear, flat, and ribbed or folded often with rolled margins. In early summer, Helictotrichon oblong, glistening, straw-colored, purple marked spikelets emerge from nodding panicles.

Helictotrichon is a good addition to a herbaceous or mixed border. Combine Helictotrichon with other grasses and broad-leafed plants. It can also be added to rock gardens.

Helictotrichon is a genus of about 50 species of tussock-forming, deciduous, and evergreen perennial grasses. Helictotrichon is native to rocky slopes, wasteland, and field margins in temperature Europe, West Asia, and North America. 

Get to know Helictotrichon 

  • Plant type: Deciduous and evergreen, perennial grasses 
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 4 to 7 
  • Hardiness:  
  • Height and width: To 2-3 feet (.6-1m) tall and wide 
  • Growth rate:  
  • Form and habit: Clump-forming with spikes 
  • Foliage: Linear, mid- to light green, or gray-blue leaves are flat ribbed, or folded, or half rolled margins 
  • Flowers: Oblong, flattened, glistening spikelets are borne in erect or nodding panicles 
  • Fruits:  
  • Bloom time: Late summer 
  • Uses: Herbaceous or mixed border, gravel plantings, as specimen or in mass 
  • Garden companions: Purple or silver-leaved plants 
  • Common name: Other grasses and broad-leafed plants and boulders, or coral bells 
  • Botanical name: Helictotrichon 
  • Family name: Poaceae 
  • Origin: Europe, Western Asia, and North America 
Blossoming oat grass, Helictotrichon schellianum
Blossoming oat grass, Helictotrichon schellianum

Where to plant Helictotrichon 

  • Plant Helictotrichon in full sun. 
  • Plant Helictotrichon in well-drained, poor to moderately fertile, preferably alkaline soil. 

When to plant Helictotrichon 

  • Sow Helictotrichon seed in containers in a cold frame in spring.  

Planting and spacing Helictotrichon 

  • Plant Helictotrichon 2-3 feet (.6-.9m) apart. 

How to water and feed Helictotrichon 

  • Give Helictotrichon regular water. 
  • Feed Helictotrichon with an all-purpose organic fertilizer in spring. 

How to care for Helictotrichon 

  • Remove dead leaves and old flowering stems in spring.  
  • Cut back Helictotrichon in early spring.  

Helictotrichon pests and diseases 

  • Helictotrichon may develop rust; root rot can be a problem in heavy clay.  
  • Helictotrichon are prone to fungal attack in humid climates.  

Helictotrichon propagation 

  • Divide Helictotrichon clumps in spring every three years. 
  • Sow seed in contianers in a cold frame in spring.

Helictotrichon varieties to grow 

  • Helictotrichon sempervirens, Blue oat grass, densely tufted, evergreen, perennial grass, forming a hemispherical mound of flat or tightly rolled, linear, gray-blue leaves, to 9 inches (23cm) long. In early and midsummer, stiff, upright stems bear glistening, straw-colored, purple-marked spikelets in open panicles, to 7 inches (18cm) long, nodding at the tips. To 4.5 feet (1.4m) tall and 24 inches (60cm) wide. Central and southwestern Europe.  

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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