Fact sheet: Ruby Grass
We are trying out a new ornamental grass called Savannah ruby grass, Melinis nerviglumis ‘Savannah’. We are getting different pieces of information about it, but we are going to try it in our demo garden anyway. Some say to treat it as an annual, others say a tender perennial. Both of those mean it might not last too long. So, be prepared.
First thing to know about the demo garden, we have no irrigation and it will be placed in a very tough area – the parking lot median. The soil is terrible, and the area is hot and miserable. Plus, people back their trucks on top of the plants and walk all over the plant material. This means, if it lasts more than one year, it should do fine in your landscape.
Most plant nurseries say it is fine for USDA cold-hardiness zones 8-11. Supposedly, it is great for full sun to part shade, grows well near walkways, is drought and high heat tolerant. The leaves have a blue-green color and the seed head starts out dark pink, fades to a pale pink then finally turns white. Such a pretty combination. It has the potential for growing up to 3 feet tall. We shall see.
Be sure to visit the demo garden located at 96135 Nassau Place, Yulee Florida 31097 and check out the variety of grasses in the median. Feel free to pull weeds while you are there – we appreciate any help we can get! Oh, and please don’t back your truck over our plants – the exhaust burns the plants. Thanks. Photo is from Wisconsin Master Gardener volunteers.
Winter hardy to USDA Zones 8-10. It is best grown in light, well-drained soils in full sun. It needs consistent moisture, but prefers soils that are slightly on the dry side. Sow seed directly in the garden after last frost date. For earlier bloom, start seed indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost date. Set plants out after last frost date. Clumps can be potted up in fall before first frost for overwintering indoors in cool areas with reduced watering. Ripe seed may also be collected for planting the following year.
Melinis nerviglumis, commonly called ruby grass, pink bubble grass or bristle-leaved red top, is native to Africa. It is a tropical grass that grows in tufts to 24” tall and 15” wide and features erect blue-green leaves with panicles of ruby pink summer flowers that slowly fade to white. Flower panicles are covered with silky hairs. Foliage turns purple-red in fall.
The genus name is derived from the Greek meline meaning millet.
‘Savannah’ is a showy ornamental grass that forms small clumps of soft blue-green foliage that turns red in fall. Its 3 to 4 in. long, fluffy plumes of ruby pink flowers slowly fade to creamy white. The blooms carry well into fall and can be used for fresh or dried flowers. It grows 1/2 to 1 ft. tall and 3/4 to 1 ft. wide with the blooms about 1 ft. above the foliage.
No serious insect or disease problems.
Beds and borders. Mass plantings. Containers. Flower arrangements.
Planted in Nassau County Extension Demonstration Garden