Grass pinks are a fun and rewarding species to cultivate. They're easy and adaptable and produce striking flowers in early summer. And, like the more common spring-flowering bulbs, they can be grown in pots and even "forced" so that you have flowers for an extended period of time.
In the wild, Calopogon tuberosus grows in open, wet, and both peaty and marly places, like bogs and wet meadows. If you have such accommodations, it should adapt just fine. In a garden setting, it needs consistent moisture, at least through the flowering period. Grass pinks can be grown in artificial bogs or the shallow portion of a pond garden. We like to grow them in pots, where they are very content and have the added benefit of being mobile.
When You Receive Your Bulbs
We ship dormant bulb-like corms in the spring and fall. The corms may be planted immediately or cold-stored for a time. Spring-received plants will be emerging from dormancy and should be held for no more than a week. Fall-received plants may be stored in the crisper section of the refrigerator until Spring. Follow our over-wintering instructions below.
Grass pinks require full sun for most of the day. A few hours of shade, especially during the hottest hours, is acceptable.
We use a 1:1 mix of medium perlite and sphagnum peat moss. Rinse the perlite prior to use and be sure to use gloves and a face mask when handling both of these components. We like these components because they are relatively uniform, regardless of where you live. Others suggest half sand, half sphagnum peat moss, with some charcoal chips added (optional). Pure sphagnum peat moss will also work. These mixes will work as a potting mix or in artificial beds.
Grass pinks require consistent and even moisture. They are not aquatic plants and should not be submerged. For container culture, the plants can be grown in tall pots (6" or more) with drainage holes placed in a shallow tray of water. Another option is to use pots without drainage holes, but with small holes drilled on the sides, about 1/3 of the container height from the top. For example, if the container is 9" tall, the holes can be drilled 3" from the top. Frankly, the distance is not critical. The important principle is to create a reservoir that will allow moisture to be wicked up through the soil substrate. We use only rain or distilled water for our pinks.
Plant corms so that the tip of the growth bud is one inch below the soil surface.
Fertilizer is generally not necessary. Some sources suggest a general, all-purpose fertilizer be applied every three to four weeks at up to 25% the recommended strength. Flush the media thoroughly with rain or distilled water prior to application.
Grass pinks are generally hardy to Zone 4. We mulch our beds with pine needles or straw to conserve moisture and prevent heaving and thawing. To aid with spring cleanup, we cover the beds with thin landscape fabric (ie. weed block). Container-grown plants can be kept in a detached garage, shed, or other such structure. The corms can also be stored in the crisper section of the refrigerator for 4-5 months. Here's how we do this:
After plants enter dormancy, gently remove soil to release the corm(s). The past season's corm will be soft and perhaps somewhat shriveled. Attached to it will be next year's corm. It will be firm and glossy. If you're lucky, perhaps you'll have more than one new corm. Detach and discard the old corm. Cut away the roots from the new corms. Dust with garden sulfur and place in a zip-style freezer bag with very slightly moist sphagnum moss, peat moss, or sawdust. Place bag in crisper or another part of the refrigerator that will maintain temperatures at around 45 degrees. Check the bags each month to make sure there's no spoilage. If you discover mold, rinse the corms thoroughly, dry, and dust with sulfur before packing in clean bags. Discard any corms that are rotted.
Notes on Pogonia ophioglossoides (ROSE POGONIA)
Pogonia ophioglossoides, rose pogonia, has similar cultural requirements to Calopogon tuberosus, the grass pink. The former grows from fine roots, rather than bulb-like corms. For this reason, extra care must be taken when planting. The species is native to sphagnum bogs and is often found growing with grass pink. For container culture, we use the same soil medium, a 1:1 mix of quality peat moss and rinsed perlite or course sand. Fill the container about to within a few inches of the top, and irrigate with rain or distilled water to settle the soil. Place the roots on top of the medium, then cover with moist long-fiber sphagnum moss (preferable) or a light covering of the same 1:1 planting mix. Rose pogonia spreads via runners, so a few root pieces will colonize a modest-sized container over the course of a single growing season.