VETIVER: Questions & Answers

These answers don't replace the resources available from Vetiver Network International but if you want a quick answer to a question you may have about Vetiver here are a few to choose from.
If you have any questions about Vetiver -- any at all -- please ask us by sending us an email and we'll do our best to answer.
  • How tall does Vetiver grow? 
  • How fast does Vetiver grow? 
  • How deep will Vetiver roots go? 
  • How wide will the clump become? 
  • What do I do with bare-rooted slips when I get them home?
  • How should I plant the Vetiver slips? 
  • Why have my Vetiver slips dried out after I planted them?
  • Do I need to fertilise my Vetiver? 
  • Do I need to weed around my Vetiver hedge? 
  • When can I divide my Vetiver? 
  • How do I trim my Vetiver? 
  • How much water will my Vetiver need?  

How tall does Vetiver grow?
In our experience in South East Queensland, Vetiver will grow to 1.8 metres in height. When the sterile seed heads form, those stems are higher.
How fast does Vetiver grow?
Growth rate will depend on the time of year, the amount of moisture and sunshine  the plant receives. Over the cooler months plant growth slows. Maximum  root growth occurs at around  25°C, and roots will continue to grow at the rate of 12.6 cm/day at > 13°C and  go dormant at 5°C.Vetiver will tolerate some shade but its growth rate is handicapped.

How deep will Vetiver roots go?
The roots will go straight down rather than out from the plant to a depth of at least 2 metres within the first few years of the plant's life.
How wide will the clump become?
Vetiver will grow as wide as you let it. An old clump could reach 1 metre in width under favorable conditions and when planted singly and not in a hedgerow.
What do I do with bare rooted slips when I get them home?
When you buy your Vetiver from us, the plants will be 'bare rooted'.  That means we grew on the slips in water after we divided them from the mother plant. There will be very little soil around their roots. You can plant these slips in pots if you like -- but until you are ready to plant them out, as soon as you get your plants, place the roots in water until you are ready. If the bunches are wrapped in newspaper, simply put them in a bucket of water up to, and just above,  their base of the stems. If you keep the water up and add fertiliser (such as composted manures) the plants will happily live in water -- outdoors and in the sunshine -- for weeks. If the roots interwine too much, sparate the slips from one another by pulling the slkips apart and  trimming the roots  with a pair of scissors.
How should I plant the Vetiver slips?
If you want to deploy the Vetiver system along the contour, plant single slips 10-15cm (or one human fist) apart. You can either dig a trench or single holes for planting. we use an augur attached to an elctric drill. When planting slips, we recommernd that you either add old or composted manures to your hole and/or dip your bare roots in a manure slip.

 Why have my Vetiver slips dried out after I planted them?

When Vetiver is divided it dies back so that any new growth is through new roots and shoots. They may seem to have died. But Vetiver is a Zombie plant, and what you don't see underground is that the plant is settling in. Don't be impatient. As soon as conditions suit and the plants consolidates its position, it will then begin to show greater evidence of growth and vitality. If given water and fertile soil, a slip will usually take in its own time. One mistake we see is not planting the slip properly so that it wind or a rainstorm uproots it. So a week or so after planting make sure you check your slips to see if they remain properly anckored.

Do I need to fertilise my Vetiver?
We fertilise our Vetiver slips with cow manure .  While Vetiver is  tolerant of salt stress, if you have a major salt issue --such as from sea spray or sea incursion -- add a little Gypsum to the soil. When planting in very poor soils -- such as beach sand -- we find it preferable to plant the slips in a 1:1 original soil : manure mix by replacing  some of the sand with composted manure.
Do I need to weed around my Vetiver hedge?  
Preferred sickle 13cm Tromontina  

When the plants are trying to get established it is preferable to keep the weeds down and the best way to do that is to mulch around the freshly planted slips. Pull weeding isn't recommended while the plants are still young as it is easy to accidentally pull out the Vetiver as well. Once established you can easily weed the hedgerow by dragging a sickle vertically through the clump. For cutting stems into smaller peices we use a machete. 
When can I divide my Vetiver?

It is preferable to divide your Vetiver clump when there are fewer rather than many tillers. We like to divide at 15-25 tillers. You'll get a better quality slip with less harvest effort or waste. Larger clumps can be dug up and divided using this technique.  More information about propagation here.

Check out our short animation on digging up Vetiver. The principles are simple enough and will save you a lot of wasted energy. 

We always tell people to plant a separate nursery to your main Vetiver project so that you will always have clumps to divide any time you need new plants.
How do I trim my Vetiver? 
We use a pair of garden scissors, secateurs and a sickle depending on what needs to be trimmed. You can also use a brushcutter or hedge trimmer. A  plastic line trimmer, however, will wrap around the tillers and the line will quickly shorten. If growing for  dry fodder/hey, grow the clump tall, rope around it top and bottom tightly, then slice through the base of the tillers. Stand it upright until the grass stems dry out.
How much water will my Vetiver need?   
Vetiver will happily grow in water but can also survive extreme drought. The plants' main water requirement is always  when they are newly planted. If you can keep the water up for the first 6 weeks the plants will be very happy. After that they should survive on whatever moisture the weather offers. But look after them.
There is a lot of information about planting, growing and dividing Vetiver at the Vetiver International Network website.--run by and for the Vetiver community worldwide. There are also two freely available comprehensive references: