How to Grow Vetiver in the UK
Vetiver a tropical grass, has been grown on a small scale in southern England for more than 5 years. In 2016, it was discovered that Vetiver could survive much colder climates than previously thought. Recent research has shown that Vetiver will survive to -10oC, as long as the ground isn’t frozen for an extended period. As the first company to import, grow and sell Vetiver in the UK, we are excited to bring to a wider audience the amazing potential of Vetiver. However, we recognise that Vetiver will realistically only grow in southern England and Wales.
What is Vetiver?
Vetiver ( Chrysopogon zizaniodes) is a tropical, sterile, clump forming grass, that originates in India. It is a long-living perennial grass, with deep roots and grows to a height of about 1-2m, in ideal conditions. Vetiver will tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions, that other plants are unable to survive, making it suitable to grow across wide areas of the globe. It is used for soil and water conservation, to reduce soil erosion and improve slope stability and to bio-remediate contaminated land and water.
How to Grow Vetiver in the UK
As a tropical grass, Vetiver is best planted in Spring after any chance of frost has gone. We suggest you plant Vetiver between mid-April and early July to give the plants time to establish over the summer months, before the winter and cooler temperatures set in.
Experience has shown, that whilst temperature is important, watering in the initial weeks is critical. Vetiver is able to withstand heavy watering, especially if planted in free draining soils. Although tolerant of a wide range of soils, if you have clay soil then the addition of compost or grit to improve drainage will benefit the young plants.
The location will also have an effect on how well Vetiver grows. A south facing open site, with free draining soil is ideal. The one factor Vetiver will not tolerate is heavy shade. A north facing woodland is not going to work.
We prefer to plants our Vetiver slips in individual holes, that we fill with water, then firm the plant in. The crowns need to sit just below the soil level. Water immediately after planting and then daily if possible for the first few weeks. If using as a hedge or to reduce soil erosion, then plant approximately 10-15cm apart.
We have found that the plants often take a little while to establish and can look a bit sorry for themselves to start with. There may be some die back, but they will grow back with good watering.
How to Maintain Vetiver
Vetiver requires little maintenance, other than regular watering in the initial weeks after planting. If the plants get straggly, then trim into a low hedge. The trimmings if cut down, can be used as a mulch on other plants as a natural insect repellent.
If you wish to propagate, then lift the plant while still relatively small and simply divide. If the plant is large, then you can take a piece of the plant from the outer edge of the mother plant. We would suggest you do this in the Spring, to give the new plants time to establish over the English summer.
There is usually some die-back in the winter. The plants will go a lovely red, then brown. Do not lose faith, depending on where you are in the UK will dictate if the plants need extra protection. A simple mulch or fleecing may be sufficient
Is Vetiver Invasive?
There is always a concern with non-native species, that they will out compete native species. As part of our due diligence, before importing our stock plants from the EU, we contacted the APHA ( Animal and Plant Health Agency) . Vetiver is not on any of the banned plant lists, nor does it require a plant passport to be imported into the UK. We have written confirmation that we are able to import Vetiver from the EU. Since the changes due to Brexit, our plants imported to the UK now have a Phyto-Sanitary certificate.
There are some wild Vetiver varieties, that are more invasive. These varieties are not cultivated so unlikely to be available on the market, but it is always important to ensure you only buy plants from a responsible supplier.
Vetiver is non-invasive, because it is clump forming and can only be propagated by division, by the human hand. It does not have stolons or rhizomes that allow plants to spread. The dense fibrous root system grows downwards, helping to bind the soil and reduce soil erosion.
Where will Vetiver Grow in the UK?
Southern England and Wales are the most likely areas for Vetiver to thrive. Anywhere north of Birmingham, then Vetiver is unlikely to thrive. The east of England may also challenge Vetiver, without additional watering, although the higher temperatures will benefit growth.