- Zone 7 Ornamental Grasses – Learn About Various Types Of Zone 7 Grass
- Zone 7 Grass Planting
- Ornamental Grass Plants for Zone 7
- Colorado State University
- Quick Facts…
- Native American Grasses for Drier Sites
- Grasses for Moderately Moist to Moist Gardens
- Design and Care
- Maiden Grass (Miscanthus)
- Fountain Grass (Pennisetum)
- Muhly Grass (Muhlbergia)
- Monkey Grass (Liriope)
- Blue Fescue (Festuca)
- Types of Ornamental Grasses
- Feather Reed Grass
- Fountain Grass
- Little Bluestem
- Blue Oat Grass
- Purple Millet
- Japanese Forest Grass
- Maiden Grass
- Fiber Optic Grass
- Ravenna Grass
- Purple Fountain Grass
- Northern Sea Oats
- Zebra Grass
- Purple Moor Grass
- Hair Grass
- Blue Fescue
- Dwarf Pampas Grass
- Big Bluestem
- Mexican Feather Grass
- Atlas Fescue
- Red Bunny Tails
- Baby Bamboo
- Australian Silver Rush
- Red Riding Hood
- Slender Veldt Grass
- Pink Muhly Grass
- Growth Habits of Ornamental Grasses in General
- Cool Season Grasses
- Warm Season Grasses
- Planting Ornamental Grasses
- Care and Maintenance
- Evergreen Ornamental Grasses
- 13 Best Ornamental Grasses
- What Is Ornamental Grass?
- Perennial Ornamental Grass
- Annual Ornamental Grass
- How to Grow Ornamental Grass
- It’s a Wrap!
- Frequently Asked Questions
Zone 7 Ornamental Grasses – Learn About Various Types Of Zone 7 Grass
Ornamental grasses contribute texture and architectural effect to a garden. They are accents that are at the same time repeating and varied, static and moving. All grass-like plants are included in the term ornamental grasses. If you live in zone 7 and are interested in planting ornamental grass plants, you will have a number of types to choose from.
Zone 7 Grass Planting
Graceful and arching, ornamental grasses made lovely additions to almost any landscape. All offer varying shades of green that change subtly throughout the year, and some zone 7 grasses have spectacular flower plumes.
When you are considering ornamental grass plants for zone 7 gardens, you’ll be glad to know that these species rarely suffer from insect damage or diseases. Most types of zone 7 grass plants tolerate heat as well as drought. Another plus is that these zone 7 grasses hardly ever need pruning.
Ornamental grass plants for zone 7 need direct sun and excellent
drainage. You’ll find types of zone 7 grass in all sizes, from dwarf plants to those 15 feet high (4.5 m.). You can create excellent privacy screens from tall evergreen ornamental grass plants for zone 7. Dwarf plants provide ground cover, while tall, plumed grasses can serve as accent plants.
Ornamental Grass Plants for Zone 7
If you are about to begin zone 7 grass planting, you’ll need some ideas for attractive ornamental grasses that grow well in your area. Here are a few popular zone 7 ornamental grasses to consider. For a more extensive list, contact your local extension service.
Feather reed grass (Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’) wins the popularity contest for zone 7 ornamental grasses. It stands tall, growing upright to 6 feet (1.8 m.), and looks attractive all year. It is tough and tolerates a range of growing conditions. Hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9, feather reed grass require full sun. It also needs well-drained soil.
Another interesting choice in grass plants for zone 7 is little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium). It is among the most colorful of the types of zone 7 grass, with silvery blue-green leave blades transforming into hues of orange, red and purple just before winter. Little bluestem is a Native American plant. It grows to three feet tall (.91 m.) and thrives in USDA zones 4 through 9.
Blue oat grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens) is an easy-care ornamental grass with a wonderful mounding habit. The grass blades are steel-blue and grow to four feet tall (1.2 m.). You don’t have to keep your eye on blue oatgrass. It isn’t aggressive and will not spread rapidly in your garden. Again, you’ll need to give this zone 7 grass full sun and excellent drainage.
Colorado State University
by C.R. Wilson* (10/11)
- Grasses are adaptable and can grow in poorer soils better than many other garden plants.
- Grasses require little effort to maintain.
- Grasses come in many heights, colors, textures and have varying water requirements.
- Grass seed heads and foliage add fall and winter interest.
- Dried grasses have many decorative uses indoors and out.
- Grasses can be used as groundcovers, specimen plants, for erosion control, and as vertical design elements.
The term ornamental grass is used to include not only true grasses Gramineae) but close relatives such as sedges (Cyperaceae), rushes (Juncaceae), hardy bamboos (particularly the genus Phyllostachys), and others. This fact sheet presents ornamental grasses adapted to the Rocky Mountain region. Listings are for USDA hardiness zones 5, 4 and 3. Some popular, tender grasses grown as annuals also are listed.
Native American Grasses for Drier Sites
Grasses are useful in different types of landscapes ranging from formal gardens to native, plains and meadows. Native grasses add a sense of place to Colorado gardens. Settlers moving from east to west found a succession of different grass species. Examining this succession and the differences in climate and soils teaches gardeners about the cultural requirements of native grasses.
Figure 1: Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans).
In the eastern part of the Midwest, also known as the Corn Belt, grows the tall grass prairie. The grass in this area can reach the height of a person or more. The soil is highly organic, the climate is more humid, and the soil moisture is more consistent. Dominant grasses include big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), switch grass (Panicum virgatum), and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans). Rainfall in this region averages 25 to 30 inches or more.
West of the Corn Belt in the present day Wheat Belt lies the transitional mixed grass prairie between tall and short grasses. Rainfall is less in many years and the subsoil is permanently dry, limiting grass height to 2 to 4 feet. Grasses include little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), Western wheatgrass (Agropyron smithii), June grass (Koeleria macrantha syn. K. cristata) and needle grass (Stipa spartea). These grasses are mixed with species from the adjoining tall and short grass prairies depending on the soils, year and the rainfall that ranges from an average of 18 to 24 inches.
Figure 2: Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium).
Figure 3: Karl Foerster’s feather reed
grass, Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’.
Figure 4: Prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis).
The Front Range and Eastern Plains of Colorado are part of the short grass prairie that lies in the rain shadow of the Rocky Mountains. This is a high and dry steppe climate dominated by short grasses of inches in height that include buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides) and blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis), the state grass of Colorado. The area is semiarid and the average annual rainfall is 10 to 15 inches.
Gardeners growing native gardens should understand the differences in rainfall where these grasses are native and plan supplemental irrigation accordingly. Generally among the natives, the taller the grass, the more water the plant requires.
Grasses for Moderately Moist to Moist Gardens
Grasses from many parts of the world are commonly used in American gardens. Many of these are from the moist climates of Asia and Europe and must be amply watered. Some natives such as switch grass (Panicum virgatum) also require regular irrigation in Colorado’s semiarid climate.
Among the most widely used Asian grass introductions are the Maiden grasses (Miscanthus species) and their many varieties. Some, such as variegated Japanese silver grass, have been grown in America for a century and are still very popular. Miscanthus are noted for their silky flower tassels that persist into winter. New varieties have been bred for flowers that emerge well above the foliage, earlier flowering, and plants that don’t fall over. One of the newer varieties, ‘Morning Light’ is rapidly gaining in popularity.
Newer varieties of other grasses continue to be introduced. An example is ‘Northern Lights’ tufted hairgrass (Deschampsia cespitosa), a non-flowering variety with cream white and pink variegated leaves.
Feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’) has a wheat-like look that makes it one of the showiest and most popular grasses. It grows in upright clumps lending a vertical accent. The straight, greenish flower spikes form in May to June, turn golden, then bleach tan and persist into the winter.
Grasses in this group notable for their shade tolerance include Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium), tufted hair grass (Deschampsia cespitosa) and Korean feather reed grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha).
Design and Care
Grasses add variety to many types of gardens, including water, Japanese, rock, wildlife, craft, xeriscape, container and others. Ornamental grasses add two elements to the garden experience that are not readily obtained from many other plants: movement and sound. Grasses look well against a dark background and placed to catch morning or evening light.
Grasses add a significant vertical presence to the winter landscape and are commonly left standing until spring. the dried foliage of ornamental grasses is combustible during the winter and is likely best removed in public and commercial sites.
Some grasses grow best under warm temperatures (warm season) and others in cooler temperatures (cool season). Plant ornamental grasses in the spring. Container-grown grasses can be planted all season, stopping a month before first frost. Late planting of grass divisions is not recommended, particularly for warm season types.
Grasses generally grow best in three to five hours of direct sun each day. In shade, these grasses may not bloom, are often lax and tend to fall over, and may not develop peak fall color.
Most grasses can benefit from mulching and many from cutting back, usually just before new growth begins in the spring. Use hedge shears and wear gloves to prevent cuts from the razor-sharp edges of some species.
A number of perennial grasses form root masses that can be very difficult to divide and transplant. Most annual types can easily be grown from seed.
Few pests bother grasses. If aphids or mites appear, spray with a strong stream of water to control the problem.
|Table 1: Ornamental grasses for dry conditions. Note: Native refers to grasses native to the Midwest, Colorado and the Southwestern United States.|
| Achnatherum hymenoides
(syn. Oryzopsis hymenoides)
Indian rice grass
‘Nezpar’ – greater cold hardiness
|3 – cool||1.5 – 2||Narrow, medium-green leaves form tufted clumps. Airy flower panicles on wiry stems. Native that grows well in sands and well-drained soils. Turns dormant with summer heat. Shade intolerant. Fresh and dried flowers. To 8,000 ft.|
| Andropogon gerardii
|4 – warm||3 – 6||Native with blue green foliage in a stiff, upright clump. Fall blooming. Three-branched seed heads resemble bird’s feet. Orange fall color.
Tolerates clay but best in sandy soil. Prefers moisture, will withstand
drier soils. Shade intolerant. To 7,500 ft.
| Bouteloua curtipendula
Side oats grama
|4 – warm||1 – 2.5||Native prairie grass noted for one-sided seed head arrangement.
Gray-textured foliage in clumps. Heavy or sandy soil. To 9,000 ft.
| Bouteloua gracilis
|3 – warm||1 – 1.5||A clump-forming, hardy, native grass. Use in unirrigated areas and
with wildflowers. All soils. Shade intolerant. To 9,500 ft.
| Eragrostis trichodes
Sand love grass
|5 – cool||1 – 2||Medium green foliage in small clumps. Pink flowers turn golden on
3-foot stalks from mid- to late summer. A native, not for clay or
poorly drained soil. Shade intolerant. To 6,500 ft.
| Festuca arizonica
|3 – cool||1 – 1.5||Native, fine-textured grass with blue-green leaves. Best in clay
soils. Provide some supplemental water. To 10,000 ft.
| Festuca cinerea, F. glauca
‘Boulder Blue’- compact, very blue and heavy bloomer
‘Elijah Blue’ – powder blue variety
‘Sea Urchin’ – compact tufted shape
|4 – cool||0.5 – 1.5||Small, blue to bright green clumps with tan to gold-toned seed-heads.
Many varieties. Provide some supplemental water. Sun to partial shade.
Excellent for sands and not for heavy, wet soils. Divide often to
renew. Evergreen in zone 5. Introduced from central Europe. Species
hardy to 10,000 ft.
| Festuca idahoensis
‘Siskiyou Blue’ – spruce blue
|5 – cool||1.5||Native. the thin leaves are longer than F. ovina lending a soft
look. Light shade, all soil types. To 11,000 ft.
| Helictotrichon sempervirens
Blue oat grass
|4 – cool||2.5||Dense, blue, pointed leaves in mostly upright, tufted clumps. One-sided
seed heads in June begin white then turn golden. Sun to light shade.
Semi-evergreen. From central Europe. To 9,000 ft.
| Koeleria macrantha (syn. K. cristata)
|4 – cool||1||A small, green, native clump grass with showy, white flower panicles
in June. A host for butterfly larvae. Interplant with wildflowers.
Shade tolerant and also shows wide soil tolerance. To 11,000 ft.
| Nassella tenuissima
|5 – cool||1.5||Erect clumps of fine textured, yellow-green leaves. Silky seed heads
backlight well and form waves in mass plantings. Also useful in containers
and for dried flowers. Becomes dormant in hot, dry weather. Tolerates
light shade. Reseeds. Native to New Mexico and Texas. To 6,000 ft.
| Schizachyrium scoparium
‘Blaze’-pink-orange to red-purple fall color
‘Cimmaron’ – blue foliage
‘the Blues’ – bright blue with purple to burgundy fall color
|3 – warm||2 – 3||Green to blue-green to blue clumps. Fluffy, white seed plumes. Orange
to red fall color. Native best grown in clay soils. Tolerates light
shade. Drought tolerant. To 7,500 ft. See figure 2.
| Sorghastrum nutans
‘Bluebird’ – blue-gray foliage
‘Holt’ – early bloom, fall color
‘Sioux Blue’ – blue foliage
|4 – warm||3 – 5||Tall grass prairie native. Foliage color varies, turns yellow then
orange in fall. Tan-yellow seed heads. Shade intolerant. Prefers moisture,
will withstand drier soils. To 6,500 ft. See figure 1.
| Sporobolus heterolepis
|4 – warm||3||thin, fine-textured, emerald leaves, gold to orange-red in fall.
A native accent plant. Provide some moisture. Tolerates light shade.
Seeds attract birds. See figure 4.
|Table 2: Ornamental grasses for moderately moist
to moist gardens.
| Arrhenatherum elatius bulbosum ‘Variegatum’
Variegated bulbous oat grass
|4 – cool||0.5 – 1||White-striped tufts of foliage. Oat-like flower spikes in May-June.
Grow in partial shade and moist conditions.
Calamagrostis x acutiflora
|4 – cool||2 – 3||Showy, upright, arching clump. Medium green, stiff foliage. Orange
to yellow fall color. Flower spikes persist into winter. Tolerates
heavy soils. Medium dry to moist conditions. ‘Karl Foerster’
blooms earlier and is more useful in short growing season areas than
C. arundinacea. See figure 3.
| Calamagrostis brachytricha (Stipa brachytricha)
Korean feather reed grass
|4||3||Tolerates partial shade. Provide adequate moisture. Tall, feathery
pinkish-gray flower heads.
| Carex grayi
Gray’s or morning star sedge
|4||2 – 2.5||Light green leaves in clumps. Noted for clusters of 1-inch fruits
resembling spiked maces. Prefers moist conditions. Native.
| Carex morrowii
|5||1||Semi evergreen, arching clumps with bright green or variegated foliage.
Provide constant moisture, light shade, well-drained soils.
| Carex muskingumensis
|4||2||Slowly spreading with palm-like foliage that yellows in full sun.
Requires shade and moist conditions.
| Chasmanthium latifolium
Northern sea oats
|5 – cool||2||Noted for its showy, drooping flowers and light green, upright,
bamboo-like foliage. Flat green flowers start green, turn copper.
Blooms well in shade. Reseeds.
| Deschampsia caespitosa
Tufted hair grass ‘Northern Lights’ – pink, white and gold
variegated foliage, non-blooming
|4 – cool||3 – 4||Dark green, tufted foliage. Airy flower panicles change from green
to yellow to near purple. All soils except unamended, heavy clay.
Requires some supplemental moisture and grows in light shade. To 12,000
| Holcus lanatus
|5 – cool||1||Soft, gray-green foliage with white flower panicles in midsummer.
Provide moisture, partial shade and well-drained soil.
| Leymus arenarius (Elymus arenarius)
Blue lyme grass
|4 – cool||2 – 3||Blue foliage in mounded clumps turns yellow in fall. Quite invasive
in loose soils. Seed heads not notable.
| Miscanthus ‘Giganteus’ (M. floridulus)
Giant silver grass
|4 – warm||8||Giant arching form with 10 inch, fluffy silver flowers. Does not
bloom every year in Colorado. Provide ample moisture.
| Miscanthus oligostachys
Small Japanese silver grass
|4 – warm||3 – 4||Short, wide leaves have a bamboo look. Early flowers, arching form.
More useful than maiden grass in small scale landscapes.
| Miscanthus sacchariflorus
Silver banner grass
|3 – warm||6||Large grass useful in colder climates. Less desirable than giant
silver grass in warmer zones.
| Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’ –
|4||5||Flowers open pale pink then turn silver, tolerates light shade,
reliable orange-red fall color.
| Miscanthus sinensis Maiden or silver grass
‘Gracillimus’ – silver leaf midribs, fine texture and copper-colored
‘Morning Light’ – white leaf margins, red flowers turn cream,
tolerant of light shade
‘Nippon’ – compact, fine texture, red- bronze fall color
‘Silberfeder’ – vase shape and leaves with silver midrib
‘Strictus’ – porcupine grass has stiff leaves with yellow
‘Variegatus’ – white-striped leaves, shade tolerant
‘Yaku Jima’ – compact 3-4 feet, copper flowers, red fall
‘Zebrinus’ – white leaf bands
4b-5 – warm
|5 – 6||Widely used grass for variable leaf color, arching form and persistent,
whisk-like flowers. One of the most – and longest-used grasses in
American gardens. Many varieties are available varying in leaf color,
size and texture. Watch for new varieties with outstanding ornamental
characteristics for testing in your garden.
| Molina caerulea ssp. arundinacea
‘Heidebraut’ – compact (4 ft.)
‘Moorhexe’ – compact with purple flowers
‘Skyracer’ – tall
‘Windspiel’ – gold flowers
|4 – warm||7||Light green, arching foliage turns yellow in fall. Brown, yellow
or purple flowers fade to tan. Full sun. Grow in moist soil that is
not extremely alkaline. Mature leaves and flowers break at the base
minimizing winter interest. See figure 6.
| Panicum virgatum Switch grass
‘Heavy Metal’ – blue foliage
‘Prairie Sky’ – sky-blue foliage
|4b – warm||4 – 5||Stiff, upright clumps with showy, airy flowers of pink, red or silver
in midsummer. Tolerates soil extremes. Good cut flower. Native. Yellow
fall color. To 7,500 ft.
| Pennisetum alopecuroides
‘Hameln’ – compact, 2 ft
‘Little Bunny’ – 1.5 ft.
‘Moudry’ – brown-black flowers
|5 – warm||3||Bright green foliage, bottlebrush flowers. Some varieties freeze
out in coldest winters.
| Phalaris arundinacea
|4 – warm||2 – 3||Pink-white leaves with green stripes. Enclose to keep it from spreading.
Blooms decorative, requires moisture.
|Saccharum ravennae Plume grass||5 – warm||4||Fluffy, cream-colored flowers on 8-ft. stalks in August. Northern
substitute for tender pampas grass, Cortaderia selloana.
| Sesleria autumnalis
|4b-5 – cool||1.5||Olive green foliage in tufted mounds. Narrow, purplish flower spikes
persists through winter.
|Table 3: Annual grasses.|
|Name|| Hardiness zone
| Cortaderia selloana ‘Pumila’
Dwarf pampas grass
|6 – warm||3||Dwarf and more cold hardy version of tender pampas grass
that may be semi-perennial once established in the very warmest parts
of Zone 5. Fluffy white flower heads. (Saccharum ravennae,
plume grass, is recommended as a reliable perennial substitute.)
|Cymbopogon citratus Lemon grass||Annual||2||Useful for citrus aroma and as a cooking herb. Grow
in pots and bring indoors at the first sign of frost.
|Melinus nerviglumis Ruby grass
|Annual||1 – 2||Blue-green foliage with ruby pink blooms in early summer
that eventually turn white. Best in a warm location in full sun. Good
for fresh and dried arrangements. See figure 5.
| Pennisetum setaceum
Tender fountain grass
|Annual||2 – 3||the red variety of this annual grass is widely sold
for use in containers and annual flower beds.
|Pennisetum villosum Feather top||Annual||2||Silky, rabbit tail-like flowers emerge green turn creamy
white. Bright green leaves.
| Pennisetum glaucum ‘Purple Majesty’
– Purple Majesty millet
|Annual||4||the burgundy-purple leaves and bottlebrush flower stalks
make this a standout in beds and containers. Good cut flower.
*C.R. Wilson, Colorado State University Extension horticulture agent, Denver County. Special acknowledgements to Green Industry members, H. McMillan, K. Grummons and S. Yetter for their input on this publication. Revised 11/04. Revised 10/11.
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Maiden Grass (Miscanthus)
Maiden Grass grows to be very tall and very wide. It should be planted in full sunlight, and in well-drained soil for best results. Maiden Grass can handle excessive moisture and drought, and you shouldn’t have to worry about caring for your Maiden Grass often. It’s resistant to nearly all diseases and pests. Every three years, however, the middle of the plant will show signs of dying out. Once that happens you should divide the grass to rejuvenate its growth.
Fountain Grass (Pennisetum)
Fountain Grass earned its name from the way it falls like a fountain. The grass shoots straight up and the cascades down, giving it a really cool look. Because it grows in clumps and mounds, Fountain Grass is not invasive. It even gives growers tan, pink. or purple flowers from late summer through the fall.
There are several different types of fountain grass to choose from. Hameln, Redhead, and Burgundy Bunny garner the most attention from gardeners, and they’re our favorites as well!
While their intriguing look alone makes Fountain Grasses worthy of your garden, their ease of care serves as another major positive. They’re able to adapt to a wide variety of circumstances. Once your fountain grass is established, it doesn’t even need to be watered unless there is a drought. You can plant it in just about any soil, and in sun or light shade. Fountain Grass does prefer full sun, however, so if you have the option we suggest you plant it there.
Muhly Grass (Muhlbergia)
Pink Muhly Grass grows well in just about any type of soil. As this will be a centerpiece in your landscape, it’s recommended that you plant it in full sunlight in an area where everyone will be able to see it. Just be careful not to plant any too close together. About two feet of space between each should ensure that they don’t interfere with one another. Don’t be fooled by its wondrous appearance, this is one hardy type of ornamental grass. It can tolerate drought, flooding, and in conditions with low nutrients.
Monkey Grass (Liriope)
As with many other ornamental grasses, Liriope are incredibly hardy. You’d have to try to kill them to ruin these guys! They’re tolerant to drought, heat, and flooding. For best results, plant it in soil with good drainage. Most people use Monkey Grass as ground cover, but it can also be grown in containers.
Blue Fescue (Festuca)
The deep blue blades of the Blue Fescue offer excellent contrast in brighter gardens. Using Blue Fescue as a border against your other perennials will create an intriguing contrast. You do need to water the Blue Fescue in the summer, and it is recommended that you amend the area with compost before you plant.
I’ll admit, when I first started gardening the idea of growing ornamental grasses made no sense to me.
“If you can’t eat it, who cares?” I thought. Well, I’ve changed my ways!
Ornamental grasses add an extra layer of beauty and depth to your garden and landscaping, and are surprisingly easy to grow.
In this article, we’ll look at over 27 of the most popular types of ornamental grasses with brief growing instructions for each of them. Then, we’ll dive into how to grow ornamental grasses in general.
By the end, you should be a grass expert! Bet you never thought you’d be able to say that!
Feel free to skip around with the table of contents, or just scroll on down!
Types of Ornamental Grasses
Grasses come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, so browse through this list to see which catch your eye. I’ve included links to purchase some of these grasses, as they can be hard to find at local nurseries sometimes.
Feather Reed Grass
Feather reed grass. Source
- Scientific Name: Alamagrostis x acutiflora
- Size: 3 to 5 feet tall.
- Hardiness Zones: 4-9
Appearance: Normally feather red, but starts out as green and eventually transforms into a dark purple and pink.
Growing Conditions: This plant is incredibly low maintenance and needs little special care. It grows best in rich soils, but can also thrive in heavy clay soils as well. It generally will bloom substantially in the spring, but continues to produce year round.
Buy Feather Reed Grass
Fountain grass. source
- Scientific Name: Pennisetum
- Size: Ranges from 12 inches to 3 feet tall.
- Hardiness Zones: 5-9
Appearance: It has a lovely arching shape, as well as beautiful, bright flowers.
Growing Conditions: This plant does well in most conditions, but a little extra fertilizer will help it to truly flourish. It also doesn’t need to be watered regularly unless there is an intense drought occurring.
Buy Fountain Grass
Little bluestem source
- Scientific Name: Schizachyrium scoparium
- Size: 18 to 24 inches tall.
- Hardiness Zones: 3-9
Appearance: A tufted plant that generally grows in dense clumps.
Growing Conditions: The Little Bluestem can do well in almost any condition, as it requires little water and can also survive harsh winters. However, the one type of soil that it will not thrive in is wetlands.
Buy Little Bluestem Grass
- Scientific Name: Panicum virgatum
- Size: 3 to 6 feet tall.
- Hardiness Zones: 5-9
Appearance: Has feathery fringe and flowers that transform into a dark purple.
Growing Conditions: Switchgrass requires a lot of sunshine and relatively dry soil. It thrives in warmer conditions and oftentimes starts growing alongside roads if enough water is present.
Blue Oat Grass
Blue Oat Grass source
- Scientific Name: Helictotrichon sempervirens
- Size: 2 to 3 feet tall.
- Hardiness Zones: 4-9
Appearance: Brown flowers strewn with beautiful blue and silver blades.
Growing Conditions: Blue Oat Grass needs regular water and sun. It also most commonly blooms during the summer.
Buy Blue Oat Grass
Purple Millet source
- Scientific Name: Pennisetum glaucum
- Size: 3 to 5 feet tall.
- Hardiness Zones: 10-11
Appearance: A beautiful purple plant with red and burgundy foliage.
Growing Conditions: This plant needs both warm air and warm soil in order to truly thrive.
- Scientific Name: Spartina alterniflora
- Size: 3 to 5 feet tall.
- Hardiness Zones: 2
Appearance: A dark green color with yellow flowers that turn brown in winter.
Growing Conditions: Cordgrass does best in wetlands, particularly salty marshes.
Japanese Forest Grass
Japanese Forest Grass source
- Scientific Name: Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’
- Size: About 18 inches tall.
- Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9
Appearance: Bright yellow stems with thin green stripes.
Growing Conditions: This grass does best in rich soil that is well drained. It also needs frequent watering as well as a good mixture of sun and shade.
Maiden Grass source
- Scientific Name: Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’
- Size: 6 to 8 feet tall, 3 to 5 feet wide.
- Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9
Appearance: Silver blades that turn into a lovely bronze color in the winter.
Growing Conditions: Maiden Grass requires lots of sun, only occasional watering, and well drained soil.
Buy Maiden Grass
Fiber Optic Grass
Fiber Optic Grass source
- Scientific Name: Isolepsis
- Size: 10 to 14 inches.
- Hardiness Zones: 8 to 10
Appearance: A bright green coloring with small flowers at the tips.
Growing Conditions: This is an adaptable grass that requires a moderate amount of sun and average soil.
Ravenna Grass source
- Scientific Name: Saccharum ravennae
- Size: 10 to 15 feet.
- Hardiness Zones: 4 to 10
Appearance: Thin, long stalks in brown and purple.
Growing Conditions: This grass requires normal soil, lots of sun, and thick, dry mulch.
Purple Fountain Grass
Purple Fountain Grass source
- Scientific Name: Pennisetum setaceum
- Size: 2 to 4 feet tall.
- Hardiness Zones: 8 to 11
Appearance: Purple and maroon blades with red flowers.
Growing Conditions: Purple Fountain Grass requires lots of sun, only occasional watering, and moderate soil.
Buy Purple Fountain Grass
Northern Sea Oats
Northern Sea Oats source
- Scientific Name: Chasmanthium latifolium
- Size: 2 to 3 feet tall.
- Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9
Appearance: Looks similar to bamboo, with flat, spiky flowers.
Growing Conditions: This plant needs a fair amount of shade, as well as extensive watering.
Buy Northern Sea Oats Grass
Zebra Grass source
- Scientific Name: Miscanthus sinensis
- Size: Up to 6 feet high.
- Hardiness Zones: 5 to 9
Appearance: Long, striped leaves with a deep green color.
Growing Conditions: Zebra Grass grows best in hot, sunny areas, with fairly moist soil.
Purple Moor Grass
Purple Moor Grass source
- Scientific Name: Molina caerulea
- Size: 6 to 8 feet tall.
- Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8
Appearance: Blueish-green blades with small purple flowers.
Growing Conditions: Purple Moor Grass requires a moderate amount of sun with regular watering.
Hair Grass source
- Scientific Name: Deschampsia cespitosa
- Size: Less than 12 inches tall.
- Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9
Appearance: Green and white leaves with a blush accent.
Growing Conditions: Hair Grass should not have too much sun, but it should have regular watering.
Buy Hair Grass
Blue Fescue source
- Scientific Name: Festuca glauca
- Size: 8 to 12 inches tall.
- Hardiness Zones: 4 to 11
Appearance: Icy blue coloring with small flowers.
Growing Conditions: The Blue Fescue does best in well drained soil with lots of sun.
Buy Blue Fescue Grass
Dwarf Pampas Grass
Dwarf Pampas Grass source
- Scientific Name: Cortaderia selloana
- Size: 3 to 5 feet tall.
- Hardiness Zones: 7-11
Appearance: Long stalks with beautiful white flowers.
Growing Conditions: This grass works best in most soil types, but it does require lots of sun and water.
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- Scientific Name: Liriope muscari
- Size: 12 to 18 inches tall.
- Hardiness Zones: 8 to 10
Appearance: Long, slender blades in lots of colors.
Growing Conditions: Liriope is incredibly easy to grow, but it does best with well drained soils and partial shade.
- Scientific Name: Juncus effusus
- Size: 2 to 4 feet tall.
- Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9
Appearance: Long stalks with a slight yellow coloring.
Growing Conditions: This plant does best when it is near water and receives lots of sunlight.
Big Bluestem source
- Scientific Name: Andropogon gerardii
- Size: 6 to 8 feet tall.
- Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9
Appearance: Flat stems with a bluish coloring.
Growing Conditions: This plant does best in warmer areas with well-drained soils.Size: 6 to 8 feet tall.
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Mexican Feather Grass
Mexican Feather Grass source
- Scientific Name: Nassella tenuissima
- Size: 1 to 2 feet tall.
- Hardiness Zones: 6 to 10
Appearance: Delicate, wispy leaves with small flowers.
Growing Conditions: Mexican Feather Grass needs well-drained soil, lots of sun, and a moderate amount of water.
Buy Mexican Feather Grass
Atlas Fescue source
- Scientific Name: Festuca mairei
- Size: 3 to 4 feet tall.
- Hardiness Zones: 4
Appearance: Bright green with thin stalks.
Growing Conditions: This is a hardy plant that can grow well in almost all conditions.
Red Bunny Tails
Red Bunny Tails source
- Scientific Name: Pennisetum messiacum
- Size: 2 to 3 feet tall.
- Hardiness Zones: 7 to 11
Appearance: Green stalks with beautiful burgundy flowers.
Growing Conditions: This grass requires an average amount of both water and sunlight.
Buy Red Bunny Tails Grass
- Scientific Name: Glycyrrhiza glabra
- Size: 5 feet tall.
- Hardiness Zones: 8 and 9
Appearance: A light green color with rounded leaves.
Growing Conditions: Licorice does best in moist soil.
Baby Bamboo source
- Scientific Name: Pogonatherum paniceum
- Size: 12 to 16 inches tall.
- Hardiness Zones: 9 and 10
Appearance: Bushy with green and brown coloring.
Growing Conditions: Baby Bamboo does best in full sun with lots of water.
Australian Silver Rush
Australian Silver Rush source
- Scientific Name: Juncus polyanthemos
- Size: About 4 feet tall.
- Hardiness Zones: 8
Appearance: Grayish stems with brown flowers.
Growing Conditions: This grass thrives in both warm and cold temperatures, but it needs a fair amount of sun.
Red Riding Hood
Red Riding Hood source
- Scientific Name: Pennisetum setaceum
- Size: 1 to 3 feet tall.
- Hardiness Zones: 9 to 11
Appearance: Beautiful burgundy stems and leaves.
Growing Conditions: This plant does best in warm seasons and when it is trimmed regularly.
Slender Veldt Grass
Slender Veldt Grass source
- Scientific Name: Pennisetum spathiolatum
- Size: 3 to 4 feet tall.
- Hardiness Zones: 7
Appearance: Thin, dark green foliage.
Growing Conditions: This grass does best in milder climates, but it does not need much irrigation.
Pink Muhly Grass
Muhlenbergia capillaris, or pink muhly grass, is a lovely ornamental. Source: jmlwinder
- Scientific Name: Muhlenbergia capillaris
- Size: 3 feet tall & wide
- Hardiness Zones: 5-9
Appearance: Long, slender grass blades with pink flowering tops in fall.
Growing Conditions: Extremely drought-tolerant, great for xeriscaping. Amazing cotton-candy like fall color.
Learn More: Pink Muhly Grass
Ornamental grass growth will depend on the variety incorporated into the landscape design but can be broken down into two distinct branches: warm season grasses and cool season grasses.
Growth Habits of Ornamental Grasses in General
Even small ornamental grasses need plenty of space to grow and establish firm root systems. Even when planted carefully, these grasses can grow and propagate quickly, leading to crowding in the garden bed. At the first sign of crowding, separate the plants. Gently dig the roots up and transplant the grass to a new area of the garden bed with a similar soil composition. Once established, ornamental grass will grow between 4 to 8 inches per year, depending on the soil conditions and the variety planted.
Cool Season Grasses
Cool season ornamental grasses do best in cooler climates with moist soil. These varieties are sturdy plants that often grow and maintain their color year-round. Since they thrive in cool temperatures, many cool season grasses stay green even during the winter, provided the periods of frost and freezing weather are minimal.
Cool season grasses can be drought tolerant with a little additional help and care. During dry periods, the grass will continue to grow as long as it is sufficiently watered. Should the soil become too dry, the grass will dry and brown, lying dormant until conditions improve.
Unlike warm season grasses, these varieties must be planted with care to avoid overcrowding. Should growth become too thick, the soil may not provide enough nutrients to the plants, leading them to go dormant until the nutrients return to optimal levels.
If the plants go dormant and some of the blades turn brown, the damaged area can be cut away. This encourages the plant to produce fresh, healthy blades during the growing season while keeping the design looking nice throughout the year.
Warm Season Grasses
Warm season ornamental grasses are those that thrive in warmer conditions. These varieties tend to start growing in the mid-to-late spring when soil temperatures increase and wintery days are few and far between. Warm season grasses do best in southern climates where temperatures are mild year-round.
Warm season grasses prefer warm, dry soil and can be successfully grown in the Transition zone where the climate changes throughout the year. For landscape designs in this area, the ornamental grasses may not produce much visible growth until summer is in full swing, but as long as temperatures stay warm, the grasses can thrive, creating beautiful growth until late fall. Once the temperatures drop, the grass turns brown and can be cut back until spring.
It’s important to note that warm season grasses may not produce much noticeable growth until the temperatures in the soil are stable. For most areas, this happens in full summer, so warm season ornamental grasses start showing visible growth later into the growing season. If it’s important to have ornamental grasses that produce visible growth throughout more of the year, it may be possible to combine both cool and warm season varieties.
Planting Ornamental Grasses
Planting ornamental grasses requires some care and prep work to see the ideal growth and production rates, regardless of the types of grass used. As perennials, the grasses should come back, year after year, but their performance and longevity are primarily based on the foundation of the landscape design.
Preparing the Soil
Plants won’t grow in soil that is too densely packed, and tall ornamental grasses are no different. Before planting seeds or starter plants, the soil must be tilled. Tilling breaks up otherwise tightly packed areas, adding air to the soil and exposing nutrients that the plants need to thrive. Tilling can be done either in spring or fall, depending on the planting schedule.
For best results, the soil should be mixed with a small amount of fertilizer and compost to give the grasses the best foundation possible. Once the soil is rich in nutrients, the plants will be able to establish firm roots and produce fresh growth each year.
Most successful landscape designs plant ornamental grasses either in the spring or the fall. Planting in the spring gives each plant the chance to develop a healthy root system capable of surviving the harsh conditions of winter.
These plants are more successful than those planted in the fall because they’re more established in the garden by the time the temperatures drop. Spring planting should be done as soon as the soil is soft enough to work. Tilling through frozen soil is difficult and may only impede the plant’s growth cycle.
Planting ornamental grasses in the fall can be done, but it will require some additional work to keep the perennial plants happy throughout the winter. Since they’re planted late in the season, the root system each plant establishes will be slightly weaker than those planted in spring.
To combat this, make sure the soil maintains a stable moisture level and cover the top layer with mulch when the weather cools down. This will keep the roots warm while they work to establish a strong network.
August and early September are the best times for Autumn planting. Planting in late summer and very early fall gives the new ornamental grasses a chance to establish root systems before the temperatures change and winter weather rolls in. The longer the plants have to adjust to the soil, the stronger their foundation will be and the less damage they’ll suffer during the colder months.
Avoid planting tall ornamental grass starters too deep in the soil. If new plants are started too deep in the garden bed, the roots will not be able to maintain an ideal moisture level and may struggle to absorb the nutrients the plant needs from the soil. In many areas, this results in root rot, mold, and other fungi that damage the growth of the plant. Each variety will have its recommended depth guidelines to ensure ideal growing conditions.
Care and Maintenance
Like all plants, ornamental grasses benefit from conscientious maintenance and care throughout the year. When properly maintained, both cool season and warm season grasses will provide any landscape design with unique, eye-catching growth year after year.
While other plants in the design may benefit from heavy fertilization, ornamental grasses require very little fertilizer to produce new growth. Most varieties do best in low nitrogen soils, and adding too much fertilizer can increase the nitrogen to the point of damaging the plant. For most gardens, using about a quarter cup of fertilizer per plant is sufficient to give the bed the nutrients it needs without harming the chemical composition of the soil. For best results, fertilizer should be applied at the start of the growth season.
Too much water can kill any type of ornamental grasses. While the soil should be moist enough to keep the roots hydrated, it’s best to avoid overwatering the garden bed. Ornamental grasses do not require frequent watering once they’re established, though, during droughts and dry spells, they may need a bit of additional water to maintain their growth.
Water the plants if they show signs of browning leaves and be sure to monitor moisture levels throughout the growing season. Younger plants will need additional water to establish a good root system.
Ornamental grasses may be hardy, but weeds can choke their growth as easily as any other plant. Remove weeds periodically to keep each plant happy and growing strong throughout the year. Avoid the use of chemical weed killers as many of these products destroy grass as well as weeds.
Ornamental grasses are perennials, so they go dormant during the winter. Their growth gradually turns brown and dries out, leading many people to believe that the plants have died.
While other plants require pruning or removal once they are completely brown, ornamental grasses can largely be left alone during the winter. In fact, the plants only need trimming in the early spring before their growth cycles start. This helps remove any truly dead growth and stimulate the plant into producing new blades.
During the early spring and summer months, the grass needs minimal attention and care. Most plants can benefit from trimming of dead growth and occasional transplanting, should the bed become too crowded.
If plants need to be relocated, it’s best to transplant them in the early spring, so the roots have a chance to develop throughout the full growing season.
Dying plants or those with brown growth in the middle of the plant can even be divided to encourage healthy growth. After the growing season, split the plant in two, cutting away the brown area to improve the appearance of the plant.
Not only will the landscaping look better, but the plant will be able to produce new growth the following season.
Ornamental grasses provide long-lasting and unique groundcover in every landscape design. Select the right variety for the climate and enjoy the foliage year after year.
With proper care and maintenance, ornamental grasses are the perfect accent to any landscape design and garden.
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Evergreen Ornamental Grasses
Ornamental grasses are valuable for their texture, architectural structure, motion, and the natural feel they give in the garden.
The majority of ornamental grasses are deciduous, turning color in autumn, dying back and appearing again the following spring. This list, however, covers those grasses which remain evergreen throughout winter, making them extremely useful in high visibility areas and in containers.
(S) Indicates adaptability to shade or partial shade.
SEDGE – Carex SPECIES & CULTIVARS
WEEPING BROWN SEDGE (S)
Carex flagellifera 18 inches high, 24 inches wide
Finely textured, warm bronze foliage with mounding form.
ORANGE SEDGE (S)
Carex testacea 18 inches high, 24 inches wide
Olive green foliage with orange tips in winter.
Carex ‘Feather Falls’, ‘Ribbon Falls’ 12 inches high, 18 inches wide Mounding with long narrow leaves, arching from the crown, weeping clump.
PAMPAS GRASS – Cortaderia SPECIES & CULTIVARS
Cortaderia selloana 6 feet high, 5 feet wide
Huge clumps of long, slender foliage with showy white plumes.
DWARF PAMPAS GRASS
Cortaderia selloana ‘Pumilla’ 4-6 feet high, 3 feet wide
Dwarf form with compact habit and profuse bloom.
MONDO GRASS – Ophiopogon SPECIES & CULTIVARS
MONDO GRASS (S)
Ophiopogon japonicus 12 inches high, 12 inches wide
Slender, shiny, dense growth. Spreads by runners.
DWARF MONDO GRASS (S)
Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Nanus’ 3 inches high, 12 inches wide
Slender, shiny, dense, low-growing form. Spreads by runners.
BLACK MONDO GRASS (S)
Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ 8 inches high, 12 inches wide
Jet-black leaves. Slow-spreading by runners.
MISCELLANEOUS SPECIES & CULTIVARS
GOLD VARIEGATED SWEET FLAG (S) Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’ 12 inches high, 18-24 inches wide Miniature Gold leaves with a fan-shaped habit. Likes moist soil.
MINIATURE GOLD SWEET FLAG (S) Acorus gramineus ‘Minimus-Aureus’ 2-3 inches high, 6-8 inches wide Miniature gold leaves with a fan-shaped habit. Likes moist soil.
PHEASANT TAIL GRASS
Anemanthelle lessoniana 24 inches high, 24 inches wide
Green turning to rusty orange in cold weather. Fluffy seed heads. Self seeds readily!
TURFED HAIR GRASS SPECIES & CULTIVARS Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Goldtau’, ‘Goldhange’, ‘Bronzescheieler’, ‘Pixie Fountain’, ‘Schottland’ 24 inches high, 18 inches wide Green turning to rusty orange in cold weather. Fluffy seed heads. Self seeds readily!
GOLDEN TUFTED HAIR GRASS Deschampsia flexuosa ‘Aurea’ 6-8 inches high, 12-15 inches high Mounded tuft of fine golden leaves. Prefers drier soils.
BLUE FESCUE Festuca ovina glauca ‘Boulder Blue’, ‘Beyond Blue’ 10 inches high, 10 inches wide
Bright blue foliage, tufted form. Self seeds.
BLUE OAT GRASS Helictotrichon sempervirens 24 inches high, 36 inches wide
Intense blue, spikey foliage with rounded form. Oat-like flowers.
NEW ZEALAND IRIS Libertia peregrinans 12 inches high, 24 inches wide Stiff, spreading gold blades, white Iris-like flowers, orange seed heads.
AUTUMN MOOR GRASS Seslaria autumnalis 12 inches high, 18 inches wide Green mounded form, short white flowers mid-summer to fall.
GIANT FEATHER GRASS
Stipa gigantea 18 inches high, 36 inches wide
Bright green, low mound with stunning 6-foot high flower spikes.
Juncus effusus ‘Quartz Creek’ 12-18 inches high, 12 inches wide
Bright green leaves radiate needle-like form the base. Needs moisture to look best.
Juncus patens ‘Occidental Blue’, ‘Elk’s Blue’ 12-18 inches high, 12 inches wide
Blue-gray leaves radiate needle-like from base. Needs moisture to look best.
PRUNING ORNAMENTAL GRASSES
Evergreen Grasses are generally pruned in late February/early March if needed. It is best to prune back only 1/3 to 1/2 of the top to remove old leaves and stimulate new growth. Pruning more than this is generally not recommended. Pampas grass can be cut back to 18 inches if necessary.
13 Best Ornamental Grasses
Did you know that growing the right kind of greenery can transform the look and feel of your property? Ornamental grasses are turning into a huge must-have for a lot of homeowners who are constantly trying to experiment with a different approach for their landscaping needs. Besides the usual choice of evergreen shrubs and flowering plants, it’s time to switch to better options.
Ornamental plants give your home texture and color that can lift your mood and have a calming effect on you, making you the envy of the neighborhood. Rather than diving right in, make sure you plan things in advance for the desired result.
Listed here are the best go-to options of ornamental grasses to brighten up your yard and help you kick-start your gardening venture like a pro.
What Is Ornamental Grass?
They are not grass, but grass-like plants that are typically available as ornamental grass in stores. These plants usually have parallel veins and narrow leaves – cat-tails, sedges, rushes – are common ornamental grass. They are used for their visual appeal and decorative contributions to the landscape. Ornamental grasses come with meager water and maintenance requirements; they even complement your yard and give it a polished appearance.
Where should you grow them?
These grasses can withstand diverse soil conditions and are tolerant to severe drought conditions. They blend pretty well with other shrubs and flowers in the yard, and can be used to set off any-size lawn areas. They work really well to perk up the winter landscape given their dormant foliage.
You can double them as ground cover, mass plantations, edgings, or accents to complement the aesthetics of your outdoors. Homeowners are known to use them as the finishing touch for water features and naturalized gardens.
Why people choose them over flowers?
Unlike flowers and shrubs, ornamental grasses don’t need too much pampering – they are long-term investments and are born survivors. These breed of grasses come in myriad colors, textures, and bring a touch of finesse to the vast outdoors. Since they are easy-going and hassle-free plants, homeowners are rethinking their options of growing flowers.
What do they look like?
If you were to dig deep into Biology, ornamental grasses aren’t very different from lawn grass. They are also available in cool and warm season varieties; growth varies from spreading, which grow best in a meadow-like area; and clump-forming types, which grow in clumps increasing in girth with time.
Ornamental grasses in the cool season start growing in spring, mellow down in summer, and keep growing during fall. The warm-season variety can resist drought conditions and a good percentage of their growth happens in the summer heat.
Benefits of planting
Ornamental grasses can grow without supervision, pruning, or maintenance. They don’t need too much watering and grow well in very hot conditions. There are hardly any disease or pest threats to worry about.
These plants can be tailored to fit anywhere in your yard depending on your preferences. Short varieties work well as borders for planting beds; large varieties can be used to add the illusion of height and cover empty spaces; they can also function as a marker to define space. Smaller varieties can grow well in containers. If you’re looking for good ground cover for your landscape, ornamental plants are a great fit.
Conserving water a great deal is possible with ornamental grasses because they have low irrigation demands. Pesticides, which can be harmful for waterways, are not required to keep these plants healthy. They grow well on slopes; hardy varieties create the ideal habitat for wildlife and maintain the natural balance.
Yes, they are grass, but you’ll find them in diverse varieties. They are available in colorful foliage of tan, purple, green, blue, red – the list is endless. Mixing different colors can bring visual appeal and create the perfect backdrop for your backyard.
Perennial Ornamental Grass
Most ornamental grasses are classified as perennials and live on for more than two years. Perennials bloom during springtime and turn dormant in fall and winter. They grow continuously in warm climates; in seasonal climates, their growth is pronounced only during the favorable seasons. Since their roots are well-protected deep inside the soil, perennials are known to be very tolerant to wildfire.
This variety of ornamental grass with its creamy, feather-like plumage is common to many landscapes. They are also available in shades of pink if that’s a color you’d prefer. They grow fast and easy, stand tall at 5 to 10 feet, and can be invasive.
Pampas Grass needs plenty of room to grow with a space of 6 to 8 feet between them. They need the full sun and can grow fairly well in partial shade. Though it can be grown in just about any soil, this grass grows best in well-draining, moist soil. They are extremely tolerant to wind, drought conditions, and salt sprays – precisely why you’d find them along coastal regions.
When fully grown, it needs minimal care with little watering in extreme drought-like conditions. It needs pruning annually that can be done in early spring or late winter. Make sure you’re wearing gloves and long-sleeved shirt while pruning because of its sharp foliage. Nourish them with a balanced fertilizer after pruning to help in regrowth.
Pampas Grass is not ideal for cold regions. However, grow them in pots and keep them indoors during winter; replant outside in springtime. But because of their height, this is not recommended. In the USDA zones 7 to 11, Pampas Grass is hardy; you can also grow them in Zone 6.
This no-fuss ornamental grass grows in just about any condition and is a perfect-fit as low-maintenance plant. They can be grown as borders, accents, rockeries, and even in containers and pots. You can plant Blue Fescue in clusters along a border or as accent to other perennials. Their contrasting colors are the ideal backdrop for wide, leafy plants.
Since Blue Fescue is evergreen, they shed aging blades and grow deep blue leaves in springtime; during May-June, they grow tall flower-tipped stems. They need the full sun and moist, well-drained soil to grow to their full potential. Make sure the soil is not too heavy with clay, there’s ample organic mulch around the base, and there’s supplemental water in hot summer months. They grow best in hardiness zones 4 to 9.
Perennial Fountain Grass
Like the name, this perennial looks like a fountain and that’s why the name “fountain grass.” This species is a favorite with most homeowners since they need minimal care while and livening up your yard. This grass is non-invasive, grown in clumps, and is suitable for many areas around the house like border plants or stand-alone specimen plants.
Fountain Grass flowers are in shades of purple, pink, or tan; they grow from late summer right through fall. You’ll be stunned by the spectacular display of foliage all the way from fall till winter – definitely a treat to watch.
These color ornamental grass can grow from 12 inches to 3 feet tall. They are easily adaptable and require limited maintenance. Though Fountain Grass grows well in any kind of soil, they grow best in well-drained, fertile soil conditions. They don’t need regular watering, except in severe drought-like conditions.
Since they prefer warm weather, they need the full sun and can put up with meager shady conditions. The warm-season varieties prosper in temperatures of 75 to 85 °F or 24 to 29 °C. Learn more about the ideal hardiness zone for your preferred choice of fountain grass on the USDA Hardiness Zone Map.
Japanese Silver Grass
This clumping grass produces showy whitish-gray, feather-like plumage – pink and reddish flowering varieties are also available. The Japanese Silver Grass can be planted as a border or hedge, and they need to be planted 3 to 4 feet apart. You can also grow them as accents or specimens in the center of the flower bed or a large pot.
This species of ornamental grass grows to about 3 to 6 feet tall with coarse, thick foliage. The long, arching blades stay clumped. During fall they turn reddish in color and are indeed a quite the sight for sore eyes. Silver Grass isn’t fussy when it comes to soil – they grow really well in moist, fertile areas. They can be invasive in southern states – the seeds give way to seedlings. In the warm zones, it’s good to get rid of the flowers before the seeds form.
Japanese Silver Grass needs the full sun, moist soil, and can withstand drought-like conditions once it’s fully established. Though they are perennials, the leaves turn dry and brown in color when they are dormant in winter. They are easy maintenance, and are usually pest- and disease-free plants with no special requirements. These plants are most suited to hardiness zones 5-9.
This ornamental grass is native to North America and is a warm-season plant bluish-green in color. In fall they turn a rust color with white seed heads. Growing Bluestem provides architectural appearance for flowering and broad-leaved plants.
Little Bluestem grows up to 3 feet tall and a foot in girth. The color changes to a rusty shade of mahogany in fall; the clumps last throughout winter unless they are weighed down by snow. This breed of ornamental grass grows well in warm areas with dry, gritty soil. They are highly adaptable to fertile, well-drained soil, and are excellent erosion barriers. They are also grown as transition plants between forests and cultivated land and serve as forage for grazers and other animals.
This ornamental grass is extremely adaptable and fits great for your home landscape if you keep its invasive nature in check. There are no threats in terms of pests and diseases, which makes it a worry-free investment. They need healthy watering during the establishment stages, but otherwise, they are self-sufficient plants; however, without moisture they tend to go dormant. Little Bluestem are known to grow well in hardiness zones 3 to 9.
This prairie grass with delicate, feathery flowers is common to the Midwest Prairies and the Savannas of Eastern United States. Switchgrass foliage is bluish-green in color; the flowering continues into fall bearing red seeds.
They are tolerant to a variety of planting sites making them an ideal choice to beautify your landscape. They can grow up to 4 to 6 feet tall with a fine display of feathery plumage in late summer that might be purple or deep red in color. Considering they grow tall, planting them on the edges or rear of a garden bed will make sure they don’t cover smaller plants. It’s good to plant them in groups with at least 12 inches between each clump.
Switchgrass can grow in full sun to partial shade and can tolerate short periods of drought-like conditions. They can be planted in dry or moderately moist soil, and thrive in clay, sandy, or loamy soil. Make sure the soil is well-drained and it isn’t overtly nutrient-rich. They are known to grow best in hardiness zones 5 to 9.
This ornamental grass is native to Japan with a fine display of striped foliage. Though they are perennials, the foliage withers in cold weather leaving behind only a skeleton. They can grow up to 6 feet tall and work great as specimen plants.
Zebra grass work well as hedges planted in groups, or you can grow them in pots and containers. Plant them in partial sun in moist soil conditions for the desired results; established grasses can resist short periods of drought-like conditions. Grow them 36 to 48 inches apart in spring when Zebra Grass is usually dormant. They are resistant to most diseases and pests and grow fantastic in hardiness zones 4 to 9.
Native to Florida, Muhly Grass grows to about 3 to 4 feet tall and are usually found in clumps. Their pinkish-purple color and long, sharp foliage blades can grow to up to 3 feet in girth. They are highly drought-tolerant and can grow in any soil type as long as it drains well. You’ll find them in along highways, coastal dunes, and flat forests. Planting them in groups at least 2 feet apart can give you that terrific jaw-dropping effect.
They are extremely easy maintenance and tolerate rocky soil conditions with full sun. Muhly Grass is known to resist flooding for short spurts of time. Grow them the brightest area of your yard and water them frequently while they are still young. Once they mature, they only need supplemental water during severe drought-like condition. The USDA hardiness zones for this beautiful ornamental grass is 7 to 11.
Annual Ornamental Grass
Perennial ornamental grasses live on for several years, while the annual derivative will last only one season and dies after flowering. Annuals complete their lifecycle of germination to producing seeds within one year; summer annuals germinate during springtime or early summer and mature during fall. The winter annuals germinate in fall and reach maturity in spring or summer.
They get their name from the burgundy-colored foliage, fuzzy blooms, and purplish seed heads. They look amazing in the yard or when grouped with other plants. Purple Fountain Grass need minimal care and maintenance once established. Surviving cold winters is not on the charts for this perennial alternative, but they work well as annuals in cooler regions.
To survive winter, grow them in containers and bring them indoors for overwintering. Keep it moist but not soggy, and water it only once a month. Once the freezing temperatures give way to spring, you can replace them in the sunny outdoors.
You can grow them anytime, but spring is ideal since they need well-draining soil and the full sun. Mature plants can grow up to 4 feet tall and wide; they need plenty of room – place more plants 3 to 5 feet part. Since Purple Fountain Grass can tolerate drought-like conditions, watering them every week is adequate. The hardiness zone for this plant is 9; they might reappear in zones 7 to 8.
This ornamental grass is a tender perennial and is best known for its culinary uses. Lemongrass grows well in hot seasons. However, you can also grow them in mild winter conditions if you can maintain the temperatures consistently up to 40 °F or 4 °C. If you need to winterize lemongrass in the cold season, plant them in containers so you can easily move them indoors during winter.
Commonly grown for its aromatic leaves that grow to 2 to 3 feet tall, lemongrass needs plenty of room to grow – one clump can grow to a 2-feet wide plant within a single growing season. When growing outdoors these plants need the full sun with sufficient water; take care not to over-water or they could be prone to root rot. Lemongrass needs fertilizers every two weeks in addition to an all-purpose liquid food.
If you’re growing Lemongrass in a container, make sure there are ample drainage holes and the pot is filled with good-quality soil mix. Just before the first frost move them indoors to a bright area for winter care. Water them but cut back on the fertilizer until it’s time to take the plants outdoors in spring. The leaves can be stored fresh or dry but the tender interior need to be used when the flavor is at its best. Frozen derivatives will last for 4 to 6 months if stored correctly.
Also known as “Pink Crystals,” Ruby grass is grown as an annual everywhere except in USDA zones 8 to 10. This ornamental grass produces beautiful pink foliage in summer that turns pearly white with age. Ruby Grass work well as a single specimen plant or borders; they can also be grown in containers paired with other annual plants. They need minimal care, thrive in full sun, and can tolerate dappled light to some extent. This plant needs regular watering, but can withstand meager periods of drought-like conditions.
Ruby Grass clumps grow to about 2 feet wide and have minimal diseases to worry about. Though they have no consistent pest issues, if the foliage is wet and soggy in warm weather, these grasses can develop fungal diseases. Cut the grass in fall or late winter to give way to new foliage.
These ornamental grasses, Ruby Grass can self-feed; it’s best to harvest the seeds during fall until it’s time to plant them in the outdoors. These plants are winter hardy to about 20 °F or -6 °C.
Native to Japan, this ornamental grass has unruly foliage that grows out unbridled from a stem cluster. Corkscrew Rush has round blades that twist from the base right to the top. There are stripes on the dark green leaves as well making them showy. These grasses look great as edges along ponds and water features. Partially submerging them in shallow areas is also a possibility.
These plants grow best in full sun provided it’s not scorching. In really hot areas, they grow well in partial shade. Corkscrew Rush grows well in any soil, like sand, loam, or mixed clay. However, they can’t survive in extremely dry soil conditions are not suited unless you can match it up with ample water supply. They are pest- and disease-resistant, but need pruning and an annual dose of fertilizer for maintenance.
In the higher zones, Corkscrew Rush remains green throughout; they turn brown in colder areas. Cut the foliage back early on in spring to make way for new leaves. These plants can comfortably grow in hardiness zones 4 to 9.
This species of ornamental grass is native to Spain and Portugal and is often grown for its delicate heads in forestry. They are also called Bent Grass in some places and usually flower during mid-summer. Cloud grass can grow up to 17 inches tall and grow flat green leaves and white flowers. They grow well on the soil surface when planted after the last spring frost with 8 to 10 inches between them.
Cloud grass need the full sun but can tolerate partial shade. They grow well in well-drained soil and need at least 21 to 25 days to germinate. Flowers are whitish to pale pink and blossom completely in midsummer. Once fully grown they look like a morning mist, or as the name goes, like a cloud.
If you plan to grow them indoors, it’s best to grow them 10-13 °C about 5-6 weeks before planting them outdoors in springtime or fall. Water them regularly if the soil is running dry. They work well as foreground plantings as borders. As clumps, you can grow them for ground cover, along driveways and walkways, and in corner areas of the yard. Plant them in rows for cutting purposes, or you can grow them in decorative groups for fresh or dried arrangements. They grow well in hardiness zones 3-9.
How to Grow Ornamental Grass
Ornamental grasses are non-fussy and work just great in your yard. They bring color, texture, and a whole load of attitude to your property. These plants are drought-resistant, tough, and hardly have any serious disease or pest trouble. It’s a good idea to go with a grass that’s hardy for your area and here’s something to help you jumpstart the growing process:
Ornamental grasses grow best in the full sun. Though they can tolerate partial shade, the flowering will be stunted making the plants leggy.
They grow in any type of soil and are not picky bloomers. Whether they soil is fertile or poor, ornamental grasses will grow. It’s recommended that you add compost to the soil to help with the overall vigor of the grass.
Grow ornamental grasses at least 1-3 feet apart depending on its variety. If you need them like a wall, plant them closer.
Plant these grasses in springtime so they establish before winter arrives. During fall, you can plant them in the warmer zones that don’t have harsh winters.
Short mounding grasses grow only 1 foot tall and wide. The more spreading, taller varieties can grow to 7 feet or higher. Mostly, ornamental grasses grow between 1-6 feet tall and 1-3 feet in girth.
Once established, ornamental grasses are tolerant to drought-like conditions; it’s advised that you water the young grass transplants frequently. Make sure you choose the right type of grass suitable for your region. If you reside in drier areas, grasses that require more watering might not be a wise choice.
Tall grasses with large flower heads growing in part shade are likely to have weak stems and flop over in windy conditions. Too much nitrogen-rich fertilizers give rise to tall, weak stems. Tying these tall grasses to stakes during summer will support them when they are heavy-laden with large flower heads.
Let be the flower heads in winter or cut a few and bring them indoors to add to your flower arrangements.
Ornamental grasses don’t need extra fertilizers. Just add 1 to 2 inches layer of compost every spring besides mixing in some post when planting.
Add 2-3 inches of mulch in spring to help maintain soil moisture and prevent weeds from growing in between the grasses.
It’s a Wrap!
Ornamental grasses offer a diverse palette of textures, colors, heights, and blooms in addition to being extremely versatile plants. Like the name implies, “ornamental” grasses are specifically chosen for their interesting decorative purposes. However, if you plan your landscape, they have more to them than what meets the eye.
They look amazing as container gardens, accents, ground covers, screens, and screens. Unlike regular turf grass, you can let them grow wild if need be. They are easy to grow and maintain, and are known for their hardiness. Since they have good resistance to most diseases and pests, they fit perfectly well in your yard.
Frequently Asked Questions
What ornamental grass grows in shade?
- Tufted Hair Grass
- Northern Sea Oats
- Japanese Forest Grass
- Fall Blooming Reed Grass
How do I prepare ornamental grass for winter?
If the climate in your location is severe, the best way to preserve ornamental grasses is mulching them. Snow work as a great mulch alternative, but if that’s not happened yet, go with mulch. Compost or shredded leaves can feed the soil allowing oxygen to penetrate. Straw or hay work well too.
When should I plant ornamental grass?
You can plant ornamental grasses anytime in mild climates. Areas where the ground freezes, spring and early fall are ideal for planting; however, avoid planting within the first four week after the first fall frost.
What ornamental grass grows the tallest?
- Giant Silvergrass
- Running Bamboo
- Clumping Bamboo
- Ravenna Grass
- Giant Reed Grass
Why is my ornamental grass dying?
To make sure your ornamental grasses stay in shape, follow these 5 pointers:
- Cut back warm season grasses during fall or from mid to late spring.
- Cut back cool season grasses early on during spring.
- Divide warm season grasses during spring right through mid-summer.
- Divide cool season grasses in springtime or early on in fall.
- Divide evergreen grasses only in spring.
How do I stop ornamental grass from spreading?
Prune grasses each spring before new grows starts to appear to control their height.
These are used to control highly invasive plants to prevent damage to adjacent landscape.
Remove 4 – 6 inches of growth from the crown. Cut the grass in smaller sections together with the roots and replant.