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Haifeng Xing, Julie Hershkowitz, Asmita Paudel, Youping Sun, Ji Jhong Chen, Xin Dai, and Matthew Chappell

Reclaimed water provides a reliable and economical alternative source of irrigation water for landscape use but may have elevated levels of salts that are detrimental to sensitive landscape plants. Landscape professionals must use salt-tolerant plants in regions where reclaimed water is used. Ornamental grasses are commonly used as landscape plants in the Intermountain West of the United States due to low maintenance input, drought tolerance, and unique texture. Six ornamental grass species, including Acorus gramineus (Japanese rush), Andropogon ternarius (silver bluestem), Calamagrostis ×acutiflora (feather reed grass), Carex morrowii (Japanese sedge), Festuca glauca (blue fescue), and Sporobolus heterolepis (prairie dropseed), were evaluated for salinity tolerance. Plants were irrigated every 4 days with a fertilizer solution at an electrical conductivity (EC) of 1.2 dS·m–1 (control) or with a saline solution at an EC of 5.0 dS·m–1 (EC 5) or 10.0 dS·m–1 (EC 10). At 47 days, most species in EC 5 exhibited good visual quality with averaged visual scores greater than 4.6 (0 = dead, 5 = excellent). In EC 10, most A. gramineus plants died, but C. ×acutiflora, F. glauca, and S. heterolepis had no foliar salt damage. At 95 days, C. ×acutiflora, F. glauca, and S. heterolepis in EC 5 had good visual quality with averaged visual scores greater than 4.5. Acorus gramineus, A. ternarius, and C. morrowii showed foliar salt damage with averaged visual scores of 2.7, 3.2, and 3.4, respectively. In EC 10, A. gramineus died, and other grass species exhibited moderate to severe foliar salt damage, except C. ×acutiflora, which retained good visual quality. Plant height, leaf area, number of tillers, shoot dry weight, and/or gas exchange parameters also decreased depending on plant species, salinity level, and the duration of exposure to salinity stress. In conclusion, A. gramineus was the most salt-sensitive species, whereas C. ×acutiflora was the most salt-tolerant species. Festuca glauca and S. heterolepis were more tolerant to salinity than A. ternarius and C. morrowii. Calamagrostis ×acutiflora, F. glauca, and S. heterolepis appear to be more suitable for landscapes in which reclaimed water is used for irrigation. Plant responses to saline water irrigation in this research could also be applied to landscapes in salt-prone areas and coastal regions with saltwater intrusion into aquifers and landscapes affected by maritime salt spray.