What Is Fiber Optic Grass: Tips On Growing Fiber Optic Grasses


By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Sprays of slender foliage and bright flower tips create a look of electric excitement on fiber optic grass. What is fiber optic grass? Fiber optic grass (Isolepis cernua) is not really a grass but is actually a sedge. It is useful around moist spaces and ponds. The plant is easy to grow and has few pest or disease problems. Ornamental fiber optic grass is also deer resistant, which makes it a great addition to gardens prone to these often pesky plant eaters.

What is Fiber Optic Grass?

The plant is hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 8-11. It can be potted up and moved indoors in other areas or just enjoyed as an annual.

Ornamental fiber optic grass forms a mound with sprays of errant stems springing from the center of the plant like a punk hairdo. The ends of the stems have tiny white flowers that give the overall effect of little lights at the end of the foliage.

The plant is native to Western and Southern Europe and found in sandy to peaty zones, often near the sea or other water bodies. Try growing fiber optic grass in a container or water garden.

Growing Fiber Optic Grass

Plant the grass in a mixture of potting soil and peat moss for container plants. The grass grows best in full sun to partial sun.

If you want to use it as part of a water garden, allow the roots to sit in deeper and deeper water levels to acclimate. The plant can be trimmed back if it sustains cold or other types of damage. Cut it to within 2 inches (5 cm.) of the ground and it will re-sprout within a couple of weeks.

Divide ornamental fiber optic grass every two to three years and plant each section for more of this interesting grass.

Growing fiber optic grass from seed is easy. Simply sow in flats with a light dusting of soil. Keep the flat covered and moderately moist in a bright warm area. Allow the seedlings to grow a substantial root system before transplanting them.

Fiber Optic Plant Care

If you want a spectacular plant for soggy situations that brings grace and movement to any bed or display, an ornamental fiber optic plant is a great choice. This is a low maintenance grass that just needs consistent moisture and good light to perform well.

Re-pot or divide the plant in spring. Plants in the lower zones benefit from a layer of mulch around the root zone to protect them from cold snaps.

Feed monthly with a half dilution of plant food up until fall. Then suspend food during the winter. Not much more is needed for fiber optic plant care.

Ornamental fiber optic grass can be overwintered in the colder zones. Bring the plant indoors to a draft-free room with moderate light. Water once per week and keep a fan going to prevent humidity build-up and the promotion of fungal issues.

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Isolepis Species, Fiber Optic Grass, Low Bulrush, Salt Marsh Bulrush, Tufted Clubrush

Family: Cyperaceae (sy-peer-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Isolepis (eye-soh-LEP-is) (Info)
Species: cernua (SER-new-a) (Info)
Synonym:Scirpus cernuus
Synonym:Isolepis gracilis
Synonym:Scirpus filiformis

Category:

Water Requirements:

Requires consistently moist soil do not let dry out between waterings

Very high moisture needs suitable for bogs and water gardens

Sun Exposure:

Foliage:

Foliage Color:

Height:

Spacing:

Hardiness:

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 °C (-20 °F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 °C (-15 °F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

Where to Grow:

Danger:

Seed is poisonous if ingested

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Pollen may cause allergic reaction

Bloom Color:

Bloom Characteristics:

Bloom Size:

Bloom Time:

Other details:

Soil pH requirements:

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:

Seed Collecting:

Regional

This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

North Miami Beach, Florida

Dearborn Heights, Michigan

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Smithfield, North Carolina

North Augusta, South Carolina

Fort Worth, Texas(2 reports)

Gardeners' Notes:

On Jun 30, 2017, millbranchfarm from Lampasas, TX wrote:

In 2015 we built a 2 acre pond on limestone and clay soil.Luckily we had a lot of rain and it filled quickly. To my dismay in 2017 this plant arrived via water or birds and is terribly invasive. It forms thick mats that I can walk upon anywhere there is water. It is growing all over the wet areas of the county and beyond. It is not easy to pull out, and it is an irritant to skin and livestock. It is clogging the watercourses.I would not plant it where it may spread, it's a voracious grower that quickly takes over the native plants. Based on this I would say yes it needs to be in a bog type environment and it seems to prefer poor clayish soil. On a positive note it is an attractive plant but I would not intentionally have it.

On Apr 14, 2012, vossner from East Texas,
United States (Zone 8a) wrote:

rating it neutral as new in my garden. Will grow in a pot, supposed to grow no more than 6" tall. This is a dwarf form of isolepis cernua.

On Jun 20, 2011, shpourroy from Los Angeles, CA wrote:

HELP! I love this little plant, but I can't get straight info on it. I have it planted in a mostly sunny area. The soil is clay, but I've added organic soil to help it out. I was told to plant it in full sun, with little watering. Well, they soon browned. I moved them to a less sunny spot in the garden and began reading on here that they need to be watered constantly (keep the soil moist). I have been doing that for about a week and they are still brown and completely laying flat (wilted). I don't want them to die. What can I do to save them? I live in Los Angeles, CA.

On Apr 16, 2011, HortiCordiallyYours from Parkville, MD wrote:

Grows well in containers without much drainage 1/8th inch hole in a 6 -8 inch decorative plastic container. Likes to be root bound. It seems to like 5-6 hours of direct sun as long as its feet are wet.
Over winter with plastic over each pot with a few holes poked in them for moisture exchange, place on southern side.

Showy plant that is planted in the ground in larger pots (a bit invasive) serves as a visual soft point for the eye. Dogs hate and it does have an oil that can cause slight itching, keep it away from children

On Sep 9, 2010, masnail from Kansas City, MO wrote:

I live in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri on the North side of the Missouri River. We have been noticing what appears to be this fiber optic grass growing along the edge of the access road to interstate 435. We have had a very wet summer this year and apparently it is thriving in this situation. They use salt to melt the snow on the roads so "Salt Marsh" seems to fit with that. Kansas City is really pushing the planting of "Rain Gardens" to help with flood mitigation and problems with overflowing storm sewers. We have several perpetually wet spots in low areas of our city parks next to a stream. I planted three areas in our parks into "rain-gardens" in May of this year. The two on the south side of the creek were planted with "Button Bush" I acquired from the Mo. dept of Cons. read more ervation. All the area's have stayed wet all summer long but the two below the bushes is totally full of this very short 6-8 inch fiber optic grass plus one other miniature water plant I do not recognize. I would expect the rain garden on the other side of the creek to have the same plants, but that's not the case, they are very different. I do not know if the rushes will survive the winter but they are thriving right now. I agree they could be invasive. I'm glad to have a name and info on them. I don't see any harm they are causing at the moment. They seem perfect plants for a "Rain Garden. This mini-rush is currently thriving in Missouri. I don't need to purchase it I can dig it or Horsetail/scouring rushes from roadside ditches.

On Apr 19, 2010, pegilee from Chelan, WA wrote:

I love Dave's website! It is very informative and like the sharing of experiences. One question i have regarding the Fiber Optic Grass, Salt Marsh Bulrush. I understand that is grows well in wet areas, ponds, etc. however, i note differences of opinions regarding light needs. Does this plant tolerate full sun or partial sun and shade? The garden is in North Central (Eastern) Washington state.

On Jan 10, 2010, brownthumb1940 from Four Oaks, NC wrote:

Received as a gift it grew nicely on a sunny screened in porch here in NC. I was told to keep it in water as it does well as a fountain or pond plant (which I have) and I hang it out on a very sunny porch during the day and bring it in at night due to freezing overnight temps we are experiencing. I trim the brown away and keep it sitting in about 6" of water. It has lots of roots growing into the water container (inside the hanging basket) but seems to be doing well. I'm hoping it will make it until spring then I can separate it into more plants.

On Nov 22, 2009, MORMOR8 from Elgin, IL wrote:

I love the appearance of this plant so purchased and placed in a container with annuals this past year. Now I am trying to decide how to over winter it. My thoughts are to repot it by itself and then place it in the ground near the house, or to pot it and bring it inside. I live in a Chicago suburb, zone 4 or sometimes considered 4.5.

On Jun 1, 2009, mecreate from Sandy,
United States wrote:

Recently Purchased /Master-Gardner's Show in Canby, OR in May `09.
Seller/Grower said that to PROPIGATE.. take/SAVE the little End Pieces of the FIBER OPTIC (looking) Plant. He said it will look-Like .
"SPECKS of BLACK PEPPER" /these are the *SEEDS.. or let the plant drop/throw them itself. (Think I will try placing a catch tray of somekind, help SAVE SEEDS.)
However` One month later-still in their original 'small pots' (although I watered them almost every*day).. some of mine look like they are turning brown, dieing.
If they truly need to be kept WET*-- I will try adding some SOIL-MOIST Crystals..(or Other Products /with same Formula) that *L-O-O-K* like (large crystals of epsom-salt) `but turn into 1/2 inch looking Wet-Jello BLOB-cubes/ after they . read more Absorb the WATER..
Found that the product- does help keeping Moisture available for Plant. (But be sure to Read Instructions-Little goes a Long way.)

On Jul 28, 2008, DixieZ from Lovettsville, VA wrote:

I bought this plant because I thought it was different and beautiful. It was listed as an annual, needing full sun, moderate water and growing to 6-8" tall. I planted this in May, and have kept it watered, but it has browned, and now completely died. Not sure what the problem was. My soil is clay and did not add anything to it. This is a new area for me to plan. The only other plants here have been irises, which apparently have done well, but very few have come up this year. Other plants I've planted have seemed to far to do well in this area to include bleeding heart, daisies, carnations, azalea, and others.

On Jun 29, 2007, sladeofsky from Louisville, KY (Zone 6b) wrote:

This plant seems to be popping up incrasingly where it was not planted. Although it doesn't seem to be a problem yet. I would consider this plant potentially invasive under the right conditions.

On Mar 12, 2007, Windy from Belleville , IL (Zone 6b) wrote:

I bought this plant because it looked really cool. I keep it as a houseplant in a sunny window. I just let it sit in about a half inch of water all the time. I trimmed the roots which grew out the bottom of the pot after about a year and intend to divide it soon, into separate pots.

On Oct 8, 2004, abolt from San Francisco, CA wrote:

HELP! I bought home a pot of fiber optic grass just 5 days ago and it appears to be dying already! the woman who sold it to me reminded me again and again not to over-water it. In fact, she told me to water it every 10 days, and if I see any brown, it's probably caused by too much water. I haven't watered it for the last 5 days, but now 1/2 of my plant has turned brown and the rest is wilting! I just found out from this site that the plant actually likes water. Can anyone please suggest ways to revive my plant besides keeping it moist and giving it indirect sunlight? Should I trim off the brown grass or will it magically turn green again? Thanks in advance.

On Aug 22, 2004, LBMOORE from Archie, MO (Zone 5b) wrote:

This grows wild in our natural ponds. I dig it up and pot it for my garden ponds as a marginal.

On Aug 13, 2004, BingsBell from SC, MT (Zone 5a) wrote:

This is in my outdoor pond in the summer and my small indoor pond in the sunroom in the winter. I brought something home from a nursery that must have had mealy bugs on it (I always quarantine but somehow missed the MB) and they gravitated to the Fiber Optic plant in a New York second. I tried the alcohol spray but the plant is too thick. so I took it outside to the pond and it seems cured. I guess I'll find out for sure when I bring it in this fall. It thrived so well I will be dividing it at that time.

On Jun 30, 2004, JenniferG from Shalimar, FL (Zone 8a) wrote:

I have this plant in a container this season. It is about 8" tall and very attractive. It has been growing healthily for several months in full sun and drip irrigation. I have not overwintered it yet.
Mar, 2006. Continues to do well outside in pot. Overwintered x2 and looks great!

I bought a tray of plugs and planted them up in October 2003 and thought it best to keep them in a unheated shed ( insulated and lighting), so far most are still green and any that are a little brown I'll trim them up in the spring. I'll keep you updated.

i saw this plant in our local garden center and thought what a beautiful plant and bought it, on the tag that came with it it said "cannot be over-watered" thinking that means it shouldn't be over-watered, now my beautiful grass has gone a horrid yellow colour, does anyone know if i can get this back to its original colour, thanks

On Nov 24, 2003, kooger from Oostburg, WI (Zone 5b) wrote:

I received this plant as a free gift for purchasing that particular day. Didn't have a clue what it needed so I put it in a pot, set the pot on the south step and it grew all summer. Really enjoyed comments from neighbors and family about it. Brought it in for the winter and trimmed it back to about 4" long. See how that works. I will keep it wetter after reading the other comments. Adding: it didn't make it through the winter, I believe I let it get too dry.

On Sep 5, 2003, Meandy from Tipton, IN (Zone 5a) wrote:

It is such a pretty plant but when I got some for the park beds that I a friend take care of, the tag didn't mention it was an aquatic. We had more than enough rain in my area this year so the plants did quite well but I will keep this in mind if it is to be planted again.

On Sep 5, 2003, pleb from Plymouth,,
United Kingdom (Zone 9a) wrote:

It is not actually a grass because they all belong to the family Poaceae (Gramineae). The Cyperaceae is the family to which all the sedges belong. Isolepis cernua is native to western and southern Europe and north Africa and is found in wet places, especially bare sandy or peaty habitats near the sea.

On Sep 4, 2003, Happenstance from Northern California, CA wrote:

This is a miniature grass/sedge. It came tagged with the old name Scirpus cernuus cv. 'Tina Turner Grass.' I haven't been able to find any documentation on that name and not much on the plant itself.

It is growing in a constantly moist area at the edge of our pond.

On Apr 29, 2003, spur from Florence, OR wrote:

I have been growing this plant indoors and it does great as long as I remember to water it a lot. I have seen it in many nurseries out here in the pacific northwest in both pots and in ponds. My friend leaves hers in water almost all the time and it is quite happy. I have been seeing it in gardening magazines planted with annuals in boxes. I think I am going to try it this year in a box and do colors of lime greens and dark purples. In fact just a few months ago mine out grew it's pot and needed to be divided, so I just chopped it into four pieces and they are all doing fine. It couldn't be easier to grow as long as it doesn't dry out!


Plant Library

Other Names: Live Wire Grass

This interesting plant lookes like a rush but it is a sedge, a beautiful mounded form with tiny silver flowers on the end resembling fiber optics, great for the perpetually wet or boggy area, it provides an interesting fine texture

Fiber Optic Grass is covered in stunning silver pea-like flowers at the ends of the stems from early summer to mid fall. Its tiny threadlike leaves emerge light green in spring, turning green in color throughout the season. The fruit is not ornamentally significant.

Fiber Optic Grass is an herbaceous perennial grass with a shapely form and gracefully arching stems. It brings an extremely fine and delicate texture to the garden composition and should be used to full effect.

This is a relatively low maintenance plant, and should be cut back in late fall in preparation for winter. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Fiber Optic Grass is recommended for the following landscape applications

  • Mass Planting
  • Border Edging
  • General Garden Use
  • Container Planting
  • Bog Gardens

Fiber Optic Grass will grow to be about 12 inches tall at maturity, with a spread of 18 inches. When grown in masses or used as a bedding plant, individual plants should be spaced approximately 15 inches apart. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 4 years.

This plant does best in full sun to partial shade. It prefers to grow in moist to wet soil, and will even tolerate some standing water. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution. This species is not originally from North America. It can be propagated by division.

Fiber Optic Grass is a fine choice for the garden, but it is also a good selection for planting in outdoor pots and containers. It is often used as a 'filler' in the 'spiller-thriller-filler' container combination, providing a mass of flowers against which the thriller plants stand out. Note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden.


Plant Needs

Perfect for containers, borders and beds

Fiber Optic Grass is a neutral grass. Where temperatures get colder than 20 degrees F, the plants should be treated as annuals. Once the grass turns brown it can either be removed immediately or removed in the spring. It should not be expected to live through the winter and begin growing again in the spring.

In areas where winter temperatures remain above 20 degrees it should be considered a perennial and the following information should be useful. Evergreen or neutral grasses are usually plants that look like grasses but aren't actually classified as grasses, they are generally called grass-like plants.

Divide evergreen or neutral grasses and grass-like plants in spring only.
Evergreen grasses don't ever go dormant. Dividing plants wounds them to some degree. For evergreen grasses this wounding will really affect their ability to live through the winter.


Fiber Optic Grass | Isolepis cernua – House Plants

Fiber Optic Grass | Isolepis cernua evergreen ornamental grass, growing to 8 inches tall. Isolepis cernua is an aquatic submerged perennial plant which is adaptable to shallow or deep water. It has bright green rush with slender leaves grows in attractive tufted clumps and produces masses of tiny white flowers atop emerged stalks in summer. The blossoms resemble the look of fiber optic lights hence the common name. This is a plant which is best to grow near water or in moist soils and can also be planted in up to 10cm of water and will act as an oxygenator.

Scientific Name: Isolepis cernua
Synonyms: Scirpus cernuus
Common Names: Fiber Optic Grass, Fairy lights, Bullrush, Tufted Clubrush, Low Bulrush, Slender Club-Rush, Salt Marsh Bulrush, Savis Mud-Rush, Cat’s Whiskers.

How to grow and maintain Fiber Optic Grass | Isolepis cernua:

Light:
It thrives best in bright light to full sun.

Soil:
It grows well in a peat moss-based mix, such as an African violet potting mix.

Water:
Water regularly, Keep the soil moist or wet at all times. The constantly moist soil is needed to keep Isolepis cernua healthy and thriving. Pots may even be permitted to stand in water.

Humidity:
It prefers moderate room humidity around 40-50% relative humidity.

Temperature:
It requires an average to warm room temperatures 65°F – 80°F / 18°C – 27°C year-round. If you put this tender ornamental out on the patio for the summer, it can take the heat, but bring it back indoors when the temperature drops. It won’t tolerate frost.

Fertilizer:
Fertilize once a month spring through fall with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted by half.

Propagation:
Fiber Optic Grass by dividing overcrowded clumps in the spring. Also, be propagated by seed. Sow seed in spring, barely covering the seeds. Keep the soil warm at around 70°F and constantly moist.


Melinda Myers

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You may have planted it in your outdoor containers, but have you tried growing fiber optic grass indoors?

This grass-like plant is native to wet places, growing next to water or seaside in sandy or peaty soils. The long triangular leaves droop over the edge of the pot. Grow it in a hanging basket or tall container to best display its graceful habit.

Its common name was inspired by the small white flowers that develop on the tips of the stems reminiscent of fiber optic lamps.

Grow it in a sunny window and be sure to give it plenty of water or set the pot in a container of water.

Placing it among your other indoor plants will help boost the humidity – something this plant needs.

If the center turns yellow, divide the plant in half and remove the yellow center before replanting.

A bit more information: Fiber optic grass resembles a mop of hair and is often used in head type containers for this purpose. This growth habit also inspired the common name Mrs. Heiberg’s hair in Denmark. Not sure if she finds this a compliment or an insult.


Plant Finder

Other Names: Live Wire Grass

This interesting plant lookes like a rush but it is a sedge, a beautiful mounded form with tiny silver flowers on the end resembling fiber optics, great for the perpetually wet or boggy area, it provides an interesting fine texture

Fiber Optic Grass is covered in stunning silver pea-like flowers at the ends of the stems from early summer to mid fall. Its tiny threadlike leaves emerge light green in spring, turning green in color throughout the season. The fruit is not ornamentally significant.

Fiber Optic Grass is an herbaceous perennial grass with a shapely form and gracefully arching stems. It brings an extremely fine and delicate texture to the garden composition and should be used to full effect.

This is a relatively low maintenance plant, and should be cut back in late fall in preparation for winter. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Fiber Optic Grass is recommended for the following landscape applications

  • Mass Planting
  • Border Edging
  • General Garden Use
  • Container Planting
  • Bog Gardens

Fiber Optic Grass will grow to be about 12 inches tall at maturity, with a spread of 18 inches. When grown in masses or used as a bedding plant, individual plants should be spaced approximately 15 inches apart. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 4 years.

This plant does best in full sun to partial shade. It prefers to grow in moist to wet soil, and will even tolerate some standing water. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution. This species is not originally from North America. It can be propagated by division.

Fiber Optic Grass is a fine choice for the garden, but it is also a good selection for planting in outdoor pots and containers. It is often used as a 'filler' in the 'spiller-thriller-filler' container combination, providing a mass of flowers against which the thriller plants stand out. Note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden.


Watch the video: DIY Cookies u0026 Cream Planter for the Patio . West Coast Gardens


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