Add FREEDA® caterpillar grass to garden design Email
Written by Colorado Green NOW   
Tuesday, August 23, 2022 03:00 AM

Colorado Green Now

FREEDA® caterpillar grass (Harpochloa falx 'Compact Black’ FREEDA® Caterpillar Grass) is as wonderful as the name sounds. Imagine dozens of 2” long caterpillars, yellow anthers for legs, gallivanting through the air above clumps of green grass in June, and you will understand why “caterpillar grass” is the perfect name for this grass. It is a fun plant for all ages. In mid-May, narrow light green grass blades radiate out to form a soft texture in the garden. In late June, the excitement begins with dark green arching flower buds suspended sideways above the blades of grass. One end of each flower is connected to a stem with only one flower per stem. The flowers elongate into wavy cylindrical seed heads in the summer and the “caterpillars” look to be in motion even when standing still. Backlighting from the sun at dawn and dusk shows of this plant off best. Through the fall, the seed heads become fuzzier until they shatter and mostly disappear in November. The compact clump of grass becomes a light tan and as temperatures continue to drop, the lower foliage experiences a metamorphosis, becoming chocolate brown in color until February. This is the wonderful life cycle of FREEDA® caterpillar grass.

The plant is a warm season grass native to South Africa. FREEDA® caterpillar grass is a selection made by horticulturists David Salman and Lauren Springer, in the early 2000s, for its compact form and USDA zone 5 hardiness. FREEDA® has been in the plant collections at Denver Botanic Gardens since that time attracting the attention of staff and visitors alike for its unique annual performance, low water requirements and ease of care. Plant trials of FREEDA® at Tizer Botanic Gardens & Arboretum outside Helena, Montana suggest that this plant may even be hardy to USDA zone 4b.

FREEDA® caterpillar grass is a fabulous new 2022 Plant Select plant for garden designers to discover. Horticulturists at Denver Botanic Gardens have found it pairs well with masses of regal torchlilies, ice plants and even Dog Tuff™ grass, which will fill in around the caterpillar grass clumps providing a South African meadow display. Design possibilities using FREEDA® in western landscapes are endless, and it’s all by certain that FREEDA® will become a staple design element in the intermountain region. Read the full article in the July/August issue of Colorado Green magazine.
2024 ALCC Platinum Sponsors