12 Top Ornamental Grasses
Ornamental grasses look beautiful in winter when so many other plants are dormant. Think about where you could plant some,…they make such a beautiful statement in all seasons.
- Grass seed heads and foliage add Fall and Winter interest.
- Grasses can be used as ground covers, big accent plants, for erosion control and adding height to the garden.
Low-growing grasses are the sedges like the beloved Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon, tall fescues and dwarf grasses, like Red Bunny Tails – Fountain Grass. Low grasses are great for edgings, borders and dry stream beds like Jeanne’s below.
Jeanne Sammons‘ grasses, feather reed grass forms a low clump with tall stems that wave in the breeze. She says, “I made a rock stream going down the hill with grasses and junipers next to the house, mulched with rock. I have clumps of a blue-green grass that grows in different spots along the ‘stream’ and a couple cast iron fish…. I also some big blue pots in amongst the evergreen shrubs.”
- True grasses — Remove dead foliage in late Winter (Feb thru March)
- Evergreen grasses or sedges — comb through with gloves, or a small rake to remove dead foliage.
- Easiest method of trimming grass? — Wrap tightly with duct tape around the two foot height, then cut with hedge trimmers below the tape.
Medium height grasses
Sue Cellini says, “We built a pond and patio this summer and planted mostly grasses. We just love the colors and shapes and felt they were decorative enough on their own. Aren’t they beautiful?”
Feather Reed GrassCalamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster‘
This versatile ornamental grass has slender, upright, deep-green foliage. A cool season grass, it is upright and clump forming, with purplish-green, feathery plumes that can reach 6 feet in height. It blooms in early summer rather than fall and must have winter chill to bloom.
Fiber-optic grassIsolepis cernua
This eye-catching sedge has silvery flower heads on the ends of its stems, making it appear like a tuft of fiber optic threads. It needs moist or wet soil and grows to about a foot tall and wide. Use it at near a water feature or in a container.
- Grasses are adaptable and can grow in poorer soils better then many other garden plants — easy to grow! Do not fertilize.
- Grasses require little effort to maintain.
- Grasses come in many heights, colors, textures and have varying water needs
Sedges have edges
And rushes are round,
Grasses are hollow
And rush all around.
Fountain Grass, Pennisetum setaceum
These grasses create delightful textures, with flower spikes that glow in the sun and wave in the breeze. There are many forms and sizes, some with deeply-colored foliage, that are adaptable to a wide variety of garden sites. There’s a popular variegated form called ‘Morning Light’
Grow in light, average, well-drained soil in full sun. Cut back previous year’s foliage by early spring. Divide in late spring or early autumn. Hardy to 55° to 65°F.
Purple fountain grassPennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’
This tropical annual produces mounds of narrow burgundy-red foliage and purple plumes to 1 foot long. It is invaluable for containers and stunning, annual foliage color in a border. It rarely sets seed.
Nell Stelzer tells us, “ I was taking pictures of the flowers and grasses before the storm arrives a few minutes ago. I love this one of the Pink Muhly grass along the split rail fence. It has really shown its plumes these past few weeks.
The first year it had some plumes but wasn’t real pink until the past few weeks… it has really bloomed!”
Pink Muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris
In autumn, this unique specimen creates a spectacular, billowy inflorescence of massed, vibrant pink, airy flowers on 4-foot stems. It is noted for its tolerance to poorly drained soil. It is possibly hardy to Zone 6 with protection.
Nancy K. Meyer says, “I love the plumes on my grasses with the bottles. Farm crops in the background waiting to be harvested. Corn and Soybeans.”
Maiden Grass Miscanthus gracillimus
Miscanthus is one of the most prized of ornamental grasses, and one particular cultivar, ‘Morning Light’, sums up much of its appeal: This grass is stunning! This elegantly shaped grass has narrow leaves with white mid-ribs and a vase-like form to 6 feet tall. It shows bronze autumn color and can stand throughout winter to provide architectural interest. Tassel-like inflorescences appear in fall and can be used as cut or dried flowers.
Ann Elias says, “Gotta love fall grasses!! This is one plant. Probably a Miscanthus, I don’t cut down for winter!”
Zebra GrassM. sinensis ‘Zebrinus’
Zebra grass is one of several cultivars of Miscanthus sinensis. It’s a showstopper!
Pampas grass,Cortaderia selloana
This stunning grass has 1- to 3-foot-long, densely tufted plumes atop tall, upright stalks and arching mid-green leaves. Plumes come in white, cream, or beige-pink and appear in late summer.
Better ‘in ground’ than in containers
Jeanne Sammons This is my favorite grass … it puts on a show all Winter. Right now it’s wet and a bit droopy … but it perks right back up after snow coverage and sunshine in the Winter!
“I don’t cut it back before Winter,” says, Jeanne…”my grasses get cut back in the Spring before the new growth is too far along…love the grasses blowing in the Winter winds!”
“I planted one in a container cause I thought that would be cool, but it was good for only two years before the pot cracked in two due to fast growth and Winter chill. One I also tried to take out of the pot for over Winter and the roots were so huge that I broke the pot myself trying!” Jeanne says.
Linda Gladman says, “I just love grasses in the winter with a bit of snow on them.”
Jan Brown says, “What my ornamental Variegated Japanese Silver Grass does in the fall
Dividing Ornamental Grasses
Ornamental grasses can be pretty intimidating to divide, given their size. Just remember that grasses respond best to division in spring and that you’ll have the best luck if you use a sharp knife or, even better, a chain saw.
Some information provided by Fine Gardening!