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What is Imperata?

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  • Written By: Vasanth S.
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2016
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Imperata is a plant genus that is part of the Poaceae family. It contains about ten species of perennial grasses that are native to North America and Asia. Most of the species have a rhizome, which is a horizontal stem from which the roots extend underground. The grasses are commonly used as border plants and container plants. This genus of plants is generally unaffected by pests or plant diseases.

The plants in this genus are commonly referred to as satintail. For example, Imperata brevifolia is known as the California satintail, and Imperata brasiliensis is commonly referred to as the Brazilian satintail. Other species have more descriptive names: Imperata cylindrica is commonly referred to as the Japanese blood grass, and a variety of this species is called red baron.

Most of the species in this genus are found in the United States and China. I. brevifolia is native to the southwestern US and northern Mexico, while I. brasiliensis is commonly found in the southeastern US and Puerto Rico. I. cylindrica is from China and India.

Common characteristics among the plants in this genus include pointed leaves and short, silvery flowers. Usually, the grasses grow about 20 inches (50 cm) in height and spread a similar length. The grasses form in clumps, which is an attractive look for many gardening applications.

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As border plants, the grasses in this genus can be placed along driveways and walkways. They can also be grown in containers and placed at corners or on patios. Additionally, this genus can grow wild over a large area, such as a prairie.

For this genus of plants to grow well, proper environmental conditions are needed. I. cylindrica, for example, requires well-draining, fertile soil. Clay or loamy soil is recommended, but the pH can vary, since this species can tolerate both acidic and alkaline conditions. It can't tolerate overly moist conditions during the winter months, and in areas with especially cold winters, the grass needs to be in a sheltered location. Adding a layer of mulch will also protect the grass from the cold weather.

Typically, the plants in the Imperata genus are propagated by division in late spring. The plant is separated into several clumps and planted in individual holes. Usually, the entire plant is dug up and separated by hand. If the roots are especially tough, a knife may be required to separate the plant. Otherwise, it is relatively easy to propagate this genus.

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