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Alopecurus pratensis ‘Aureus’ (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)
Alopecurus pratensis ‘Aureus’ (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)

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Zones 2-10, 14-17, 21-24
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Full, Partial
Regular Water
Moderate

Alopecurus pratensis ‘Aureus’

Yellow Foxtail Grass
Poaceae (Gramineae)
Ground covers, Ornamental grasses and grasslike plants, Perennials

This golden-variegated selection of a cool-season grass is native to Eurasia but has naturalized in North America (may be sold as ‘Variegatus’ or ‘Aureovarie­gatus’). It’s smaller and less vigorous than the plain (green-leafed) species, growing 2 ft. high and spreading slowly to form mats 1 1/2 ft. wide or more. The translucent foliage ranges from green striped with gold to almost entirely yellow; in part shade, it is chartreuse. This grass dislikes drought, excessive moisture, and high heat, but it’s a good filler or accent plant and makes an interesting, colorful groundcover.

When flower spikes form in midspring, shear them off (or, where summers are hot, cut plants back to about 5 in. high, as foliage can look ragged in summer’s heat). Shearing prevents the appearance of volunteer seedlings, which would be green-leafed. Fresh foliage appears when temperatures fall, and growth continues until the first hard freeze. Nearly evergreen in climates with cool summers and mild winters. Divide clumps every 2 or 3 years in spring or fall.

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