- Dispelling Common Fertilizer Misconceptions
- Guide to 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
- Aurea (Carex elata)
- Blaufuchs (Festuca glauca)
- Blue Oat Grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens)
- Cosmopolitan (Miscanthus sinensis var. condensatus)
- Elijah Blue (Festuca glauca)
- Everest (Carex oshimensis)
- Flamingo (Miscanthus sinensis)
- Foxtail Barley (Hordeum jubatum)
- Frosted Curls (Carex comans)
- Ghana (Miscanthus sinensis)
- Golden Oats (Stipa gigantean)
- Hanse Herms (Panicum virgatum)
- Himalaya Fairy Grass (Miscanthus nepalensis)
- Karl Foerster (Calamagrostis x acutiflora)
- Karley Rose (Pennisetum orientale)
- Little Kitten (Miscanthus sinensis)
- Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis)
- Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon japonicus)
- Moor Grass (Molinia caerulea subsp. arundinacea)
- New Zealand Wind Grass (Anemanthele lessoniana)
- Nicolas (Hakonechloa macra)
- Northwind (Panicum virgatum)
- Ornamental Onion (Allium giganteum)
- Prairie Fire (Carex testacea)
- Pumila (Cortaderia selloana)
- Quaking Grass (Briza media)
- Red Baron (Imperata cylindrica)
- Rubrum (Pennisetum setaceum)
- Silver Feather Grass (Stipa barbata)
- Strictus (Miscanthus sinensis)
- Zebrinus (Miscanthus sinensis)
- A Gallery of Ornamental Grasses and Grasslikes
- Dr. Mack Thetford
- Types of Short Grass Plants
- Purple Lovegrass
- Japanese Blood Grass 'Rubra'
- Fountain Grass 'Little Honey'
- Autumn Moor Grass
Dispelling Common Fertilizer Misconceptions
Another ornamental grass that works well as a privacy screen is maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracilliumus’). This grass grows 6 feet high and has a vase-like shape.
“Although not normally thought of as screening plant, it can stand throughout most of winter to provide architectural interest and privacy,” said Jan Johnsen, owner of Johnsen Landscapes & Pools and author of Heaven is a Garden.
If the client is looking for a shield of green around their property, evergreens like Green Mountain boxwood and Emerald Green arborvitae are good standbys. Both grow at a moderate rate.
For those wanting a faster-growing hedge with some variety in color, red tip photinia (Photinia x fraseri) is a good option.
“Ligustrum and red tip photinia both create very dense hedges,” said Kristin Braud, office manager for Plant Tech Nursery & Landscape in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
New growth on red tip photinia comes in bright red for spring and then matures to dark green leaves. To prevent against entomosporium leaf spot, ensure the plants have plenty of spacing; crowding them can increase their susceptibility to disease.
Leatherleaf viburnum berries start out red in the fall and then turn black when ripe.
Photo: Jan Johnsen
For larger landscapes, sometimes green giants are needed. Johnsen suggests a combination of doublefile viburnum (Viburnum plicatum tomentosum ‘Mariesi’) and leatherleaf viburnums (Viburnum rhytidophyllum ‘Allegheny’).
Doublefile can grow about 10 feet high and 15 feet wide, while leatherleaf can grow 10 to 15 feet high. Both have flowers in the spring and berries in the fall.
“Leatherleaf viburnum makes a great semi-evergreen screen and grows in shade to partial sun,” Johnsen said.
One of Brennan’s favorites for screening is Blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium), which can grow 12 to 15 feet tall. In the past, she’s had clients who live on curbs use them to block headlights.
“They’re really nice because they tend to be more upright than wide,” Brennan said. “It has great fruit that birds love and great fall color. Its leaves are a shining red in the fall.”
Not all plants have to stand alone; some spaces need, or already have, a solid structure for privacy. In those cases, ornamental foliage can be used to soften the barrier. Climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala petiolaris) offers large white clusters of blossoms in the summer and has heart-shaped leaves.
“It is not evergreen but makes a great screen for small properties or side yards,” Johnsen said.
As she and other experts will tell you, when it comes to ornamentals and the creation of secluded gardens, the possibilities are boundless.
Guide to Ornamental Grasses
Ornamental grasses are highly versatile, unfussy, easy to grow and pest and disease free, ranging from miniatures such as Stipa Pony Tails and Carex Evergold for the rockery to grand, architectural Cordylines, stately Yucca plants and towering giant bamboos. Grasses come in an array of forms, colours and textures. Stipas are great for adding subtle movement and a graceful presence to your garden, working particularly well when interspersed with dainty perennials and shrubs, or as a contrasting backdrop to the more explosive colours of large, bright and pastel flowers of Echinacea, Crocosmia and Rudbeckia.
Wispygrasses add a certain unimposing calm to sensory or prairie gardens, producing a rustling melody and working well grown en masse in large swathes. Grasses are also perfect for linking disparate groups of plants whose flower colour, if they were positioned side by side, would make for an unwelcome combination whilst smaller varieties can be used as the centrepiece in small container plantings, surrounded by bedding plants or bulbs. Taller upright grasses and bamboo add linear precision and a certain formality, which works well alongside Hostas, Fatsia Japonica and varieties of Mahonia.
Grasses are adaptable to a range of conditions, but generally prefer a sunny spot in a well-drained, moderately fertile soil. For very vigorous varieties, especially running bamboos, it’s best to constrain the root system to prevent them spreading beyond their designated space. Many grasses also work well in containers using a mix of four-fifths John Innes No 2 compost to one-fifth multi-purpose compost to lighten the mix. Grasses don’t normally require summer feeding, although it is best to mulch and top-dress with a handful of general fertiliser in early spring to promote fresh new growth.
Lifting and Dividing
It’s important you lift and divide your grasses at the right time of year. Lift and divide grasses in early to mid-spring, just as new shoots are starting to emerge. Use a sharp spade to carefully chop clumps into smaller pieces, ensuring that each piece is not too small and has sufficient roots to successfully re-establish – splitting into 3-4 pieces is normally recommended. Once split, replant each divided clump with sufficient space in the garden or a container.
Grasses are best pruned in early to mid spring. The required approach depends on whether you are growing a deciduous or evergreen grass. Deciduous, or herbaceous, grasses can be sheared back hard to just a few centimetres (2 inches) above ground level, leaving a hairy turf from which the new growth will form without getting tangled with old stems. Don’t worry too much if you cut through some new shoots in the process – it’s a grass, so just like a lawn it will grow back again. Finish by removing any dead leaves and debris from around the plant.
Evergreens on the other hand do not respond well to hard pruning, so only dead, damaged, weary and thatch-like foliage should be pulled away or cut cleanly using secateurs. Be careful not to cut into any new stems coming up through the crown and clear any debris from in and around your grass plants. If any flowered stalks have been left uncut over the winter, remove them before new growth starts to emerge. You should be left with a lovely green tussock ready for the new year.
Allow your grasses to die back naturally in the winter. Frost-sensitive grasses are best overlaid with dry leaves secured by brushwood or horticultural fleece. Use string or gardening twine to tie the leaves of larger grasses such as yucca plants and Cortaderia around the base of the clump. Move container grown plants to a frost-free location, such as a greenhouse or conservatory, during periods of cold and wet weather.
Grasses by Variety
Details of some of the most popular grass varieties are given below:
Carex is a vast genus of over 2,000 species, commonly known as sedge. It is adaptable to all soil types from shallow water to pure sand and most also respond well to shade. Carex Evergold has elegant, arching, fine-textured variegated gold and dark green leaves that work well in a formal border. Carex Testacea has an arching habit with narrow bronze leaves and light brown summer flower spikes, whilst Carex Pendula has a graceful, drooping habit with narrow green leaves and pendulous green flower spikes. For more information visit our Carex plants information page.
Cordyline (Cabbage Palm / Torbay Palm)
Technically evergreen shrubs rather than grasses, Cordylines are popular for coastal gardens and city gardens, maturing to form awkwardly shaped stubby trees with tufts of spiky leaves that resemble huge pineapple tops. These form because the plants gradually lose their older leaves and form fresh ones directly above, creating a trunk that slowly gets larger each year. Cordyline Australis is a popular, plain green variety; Cordyline Cha Cha offers gold and green variegation with reddy-pink veining on mature leaves; and Cordyline Salsa has more sword-shaped leaves with a distinctive solid pink stripe down the middle and along the base of each leaf. For more information visit our Cordyline plants information page.
Cortaderia (Pampas Grass)
Pampas Grass is a robust, vigorous evergreen grass which produces large decorative white or pink flower plumes on long erect stems in summer. These are borne above large compact tufts of narrow, linear green leaves with sharp edges. When planting, choose a location with plenty of room for vertical growth, bearing in mind that Cortaderia plants can reach over 3 metres (10 feet) tall, and consider constraining the root system to prevent it from spreading beyond its designated bounds, particularly in small to medium sized gardens. Protect from winter frosts by tying leaves together with string and covering the roots with straw or mulch. For more information visit our Cortaderia plants information page.
Festuca grasses are compact, container-friendly plants which form a small turf of bright azure blue typically around 30cm tall. It has needle-like, stiff foliage and produces short spikes of blue-green flowers in summer, fading to light brown in late autumn. It looks particularly attractive when grown in terracotta pots or when combined with purple-flowering perennials. The small size of Blue Fescue grass makes it perfect for the rockery garden, where it will become drought tolerant once established. For more information visit our Festuca Glauca Elijan Blue plants page.
Imperata Red Baron (Blood Grass)
An erect, vigorous ornamental grass with showy, fresh green leaves which become intensely blood-red coloured from the middle to the tips in summer and retaining their striking colour through autumn. Its exceptional colour makes it perfect for incorporating into borders, rock gardens or containers, particularly alongside golden, blue or black-foliaged grasses which it will contrast with beautifully. Blood Grass has a slow-spreading, clump forming habit and produces clusters of fluffy, silvery-white flowers between June and August. For more information visit our Imperata Red Baron plants page.
Miscanthus (Elephant Grass)
Native to marshes, slopes, mountainsides and other open habitats, mainly in eastern Asia but extending well into Africa, Miscanthus are tightly clumping perennial grasses with long, narrow and sometimes sharp foliage. Prized as a symbol of autumn in Japanese art, it is highly versatile. Larger varieties such as Miscanthus Kleine Fontane and Miscanthus Malepartus are mainly used for adding ascent and architectural flair, either alone or in groupings, but also work well as a wind breaks, pond edging or privacy screens, growing to over 3 metres tall. Smaller varieties are more decorative, such as the popular Zebra Grass with unusual creamy-yellow horizontal bands and the slender, gold and green variegated Miscanthus Morning Light. For more information visit our Miscanthus plants page.
Panicum (Switch Grass)
Native to North America, Switch Grass is a versatile, unfussy variety with a clump-forming, columnar habit and narrow, stiff mid-green leaves which turn orange-yellow in the autumn. It produces airy clouds of finely-textured, pink-tinged flowers in branched seed-heads in mid-summer, extending up to 80cm (nearly 3 feet) into the air. These panicles turn beige as the seeds mature in the autumn and persist well into winter. Panicum grows best in full sun, where it will typically retain its vertical shape throughout the growing season. It is ideal for building into the perennial border, using as a low screen or incorporating into the wild or prairie garden. Switch grass is also tolerant of wet conditions, making it suitable for water and bog gardens. The 3 best varieties are Panicum Heavy Metal, Panicum Squaw and Panicum Rehbraun. For more information visit our Panicum plants information page.
Phormium (New Zealand Flax)
Commonly known as flax plants, Phormiums are robust, colourful, stately grasses which are also hardy providing they are mulched well in the winter and not grown in frost pockets. Flax forms a large clump of glossy, leathery, sword-shaped, arching leaves which are often variegated with coloured edges and central ribs. It produces tall panicles of tube-like flowers held high above the foliage on flower spikes from July to August. These produce large amounts of nectar, making them highly attractive to feeding birds and insects. The architectural shape of flax means it works well in formal planting schemes or grown in patio containers with gravel sprinkled over the soil surface (container growing also assists with flower production).
They also stand up well to windswept, coastal gardens and make a good contrast item in the herbaceous border. Large clumps may be lifted and divided every year years in spring, with each segment re-potted or planted out separately in the garden to produce new plants. Protect your Phormium from frost until established and use a sharp knife to cut back older and scorched leaves to base level in late winter / early summer, leaving space for the newer shoots to develop. For more information visit our Phormium plants information page.
Yucca (Adam’s Needle Palm)
Yuccas are trendy, tropical architectural plants which are a member of the Agavae group and native to Mexico and Central America. Growing best in full sun, they are hardy and generally pest and disease free. They have thick, rigid woody stems and tough, spiky sword-shaped evergreen leaves with razor-sharp edges. The leaf edges are so sharp on mature plants that we discourage the use of yuccas if you have children or small pets, as they may cause unwanted harm to people and animals. Yuccas are the state flower of Mexico, producing dramatic clusters of droopy, creamy-white, bell shaped flowers with a subtle fragrance from late spring through summer.
The plant has a mutual relationship with the yucca moth, which acts as a pollinator and lays eggs in the yucca (without causing any damage to the foliage or flowers). Adam’s Needle Palms are excellent for adding tropical appearance or dramatic ascent to your garden in a neutral to slightly acidic soil. Yuccas like to be reasonably dry (so much so that they are sometimes referred to as the ‘no water plant’) so do not over-water. If your plants start developing brown-tipped foliage, this is a sure sign of over-watering. It is therefore important to avoid planting in wet ground that ‘puddles’ – waterlogged roots are the most common cause of yuccas downfall, especially during the summer dormant phase. For more information visit our yucca plants information page.
For bamboos such as Fargesia and Phyllostachys please visit our page on how to grow bamboos.
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.
Purple Fountain Grass
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.
Discover the many types of ornamental grass and how they differ from one another. You’ll never look at grass the same way again.
There are more than 10,000 grass species in the world out of over 1 million plant species. Grass is also one of the oldest living organisms ever discovered. The oldest is said to be 200,000 years and is a type of seagrass found in the Mediterranean Sea.
Grasslands cover over 20 percent of the Earth’s vegetation and are found mostly in temperate and tropical habitats. When it comes to typical lawns, on the other hand, about six grass plants can grow per square inch so that’s about millions of grass plants for an average lawn.
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Aurea (Carex elata)
This grass is also called the Bowles’ Golden Sedge and grows up to 18 inches tall and three feet in width. It is resistant to deer and wet conditions and it has shiny yellow blades and fine green edges that elegantly reach towards the ground. Its hair-like, iridescent foliage is one reason it looks so good with flowering bulbs or perennials. When you see it, you won’t wonder why it has won so many international awards.
Blaufuchs (Festuca glauca)
Some people call this grass Blue Fox and it will definitely catch your attention. The dwarf grass has bluish-silver foliage and upright flower blooms in the summer. These blooms start out the same color as the foliage but turn to light tan as they age. It is a low-maintenance, drought-resistant grass that likes full sun but doesn’t require a lot of water.
Blue Oat Grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens)
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With narrow steel-blue leaves and growing in round clumps, the Blue Oat grass is a semi-evergreen that is low-maintenance and starts out in early to mid summer as small spikelets that are straw-colored. The winner of several international awards, this type of grass does great in full sun and dry soils that have good drainage.
Cosmopolitan (Miscanthus sinensis var. condensatus)
Also called Maiden Grass, this type of grass has variegated foliage consisting of green blades and creamy white margins. It grows up to eight feet high and can get as wide as five feet and as it matures, it turns into a more silver color that is quite striking.
Elijah Blue (Festuca glauca)
Also called the Blue Fescue, this grass consists of two parts: a low-growing mound of dense, bright silver-blue foliage and upright flower plumes on long stems that start out the same color as the foliage, then turn to tan as the grass matures. The grass looks great as borders or edging, and it grows to 12 inches high and 12 inches wide. It is deer-resistant and requires very little water to remain looking good.
Everest (Carex oshimensis)
Also called Japanese Sedge, this grass gets up to 18 inches high and has beautiful narrow, glossy, dark green leaves with edges that are silver-white in color. It is vigorous, it is easy to grow, and its color contrasts beautifully with many bulb plants and even perennials. It grows year-round and it looks beautiful in shady areas that you wish to add some oomph to.
Flamingo (Miscanthus sinensis)
Another type of Maiden grass, it flowers early and has plumes that start out rose-pink and turn to silver-white as it ages. It grows up to six feet high and five feet wide and it makes a beautiful accent plant, hedge, or border.
Foxtail Barley (Hordeum jubatum)
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The Foxtail Barley has arching, elegant leaves and flower spikes that resemble feathers that are colored green, pale pink, or purple, then turn light tan as the grass matures. It blooms from late spring to mid summer and it lasts a long time in dried or fresh arrangements. It grows up to two feet tall and looks great in borders or beds, not to mention in mass plantings and meadows.
Frosted Curls (Carex comans)
Also called New Zealand Hair Sedge, this grass can soften any landscape due to its pale silver-green grass-like leaves and its year-round aspect. The grass gets up to 18 inches tall, it does well in bright sun or partial shade, and it makes a great accent, border, or plant for your container.
Ghana (Miscanthus sinensis)
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The reddish-brown plumes on this grass make it very unique and with its height of up to six feet, it can soften any landscape. The grass goes from reddish-brown to silver-white as it matures and even the leaves change from bright green to burgundy, then to a golden-yellow when fall hits so it is truly a very colorful grass.
Golden Oats (Stipa gigantean)
Also called Giant Needle Grass, this grass has arching, greenish-grey leaves that contain flower spikes rising four feet above the foliage. Growing up to six feet tall, the grass has won several international awards and with its silvery spikelets, it looks amazing swaying in the breeze, especially at sunset.
Hanse Herms (Panicum virgatum)
Also known as Switch grass, this grass consists of upright, compact foliage that is steely blue in color with red-tinged tips. They eventually turn dark red and then burgundy-red, which it remains through the winter. The grass is deer-resistant, it is virtually free of diseases and pests, and it looks great alongside ponds and streams. They also look good when planted in masses and they can tolerate both wet and dry soil.
Himalaya Fairy Grass (Miscanthus nepalensis)
As its name implies, this grass is native to the Himalayas and grows up to five feet high and four feet in width. It makes a graceful accent plant and has plumes that are silky and creamy in late summer. The rest of the time, it has leaves that are lush and green and it is so attractive that it makes a great focal point for any garden. It is rabbit- and deer-resistant and it does best in full sun. It is also very attractive to birds and looks beautiful in cottage gardens and in prairies.
Karl Foerster (Calamagrostis x acutiflora)
Also called Feather Reed Grass, this type of grass can grow up to six feet high and has flower plumes that are feathery and stand upright. The plumes are usually tan in color and make the grass sway when there’s a breeze, contributing to its elegance. It has won international awards and is deer- and rabbit-resistant. The grass requires little maintenance and looks beautiful as borders or even as a specimen plant.
Karley Rose (Pennisetum orientale)
Also called Oriental Fountain Grass, it has long, slender branches with fuzzy rose-purple flowers. With deep green foliage to complement its flowers, the Karley Rose grows up to three feet tall and blooms from early summer into fall. It is a versatile grass that looks great wherever it is planted.
Little Kitten (Miscanthus sinensis)
A type of Maiden grass, it is perfect for small gardens. It grows only to three feet high and it has fine-textured foliage and narrow green leaves and it turns to many shades of brown in the Fall. It looks beautiful in cottage or city gardens, hedges, prairies, and even containers.
Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis)
Also known as Gracillimus, it has an abundance of flower plumes in flushed purple and it shows off best in late summer. It grows up to six feet tall, prefers full sun, and is deer- and rabbit-resistant. Moreover, the birds love it and as it ages, it turns a more silver color, making it truly eye-catching.
Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon japonicus)
Growing only one foot high and 15 inches in width, the Mondo grass consists of arching, dark-green leaves and tiny lilac flowers that emerge in summer only to turn to blueberry-like fruits later on. It is a tough, durable plant that is perfect for edges and groundcovers and it is virtually disease-free. It does best in full sun or partial shade and turns dense and soft with age.
Moor Grass (Molinia caerulea subsp. arundinacea)
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Also known as Purple Moor Grass, it is a very graceful plant with thread-like leaves that start out green, mature to purplish-brown, then turn a golden tan. The grass mixes great with nearly any perennial and it forms a dense clump that grows up to eight feet high. It is also low-maintenance and prefers full sun and light shade.
New Zealand Wind Grass (Anemanthele lessoniana)
Fast-growing and very sturdy, this grass consists of arching, dark green leaves that turn into various shades of gold, copper, and bronze as it ages. The winner of several international awards, the grass is low-maintenance and can last all year long.
Nicolas (Hakonechloa macra)
Also called Hakone Grass, it consists of elegant, arching blades in colors of green to start with and then colors such as gold, red, and orange once it starts to mature. It does well in partial shade and grows up to 16 inches in height. The Nicolas loves shady, moist conditions and makes great groundcovers, accent plants, and container plants.
Northwind (Panicum virgatum)
Known as Switch grass, it grows up to six feet in height and consists of dense, upright blades of foliage that are olive green to blue-green in color. As it ages, it turns to spikelets that resemble golden flowers until the fall, when both the leaves and the spikelets turn tan. It prefers full sun or partial shade and it looks great in gardens or when planted alongside streams and ponds.
Ornamental Onion (Allium giganteum)
With long spikes and round, onion-like blooms sitting on top, the balls are made with tiny, purple-lilac flowers that can be as wide as six inches. The plant grows to six feet high and blooms in late spring to early summer. The winner of several international awards, the grass is beautiful in borders, beds, and even in vases or containers.
Prairie Fire (Carex testacea)
Also known as Speckled Sedge, this grass has leaves that are olive-green and accented in bright orange. It is a great accent plant, it is low-maintenance, and it has brown spikes that droop gracefully with age. The grass grows up to two feet tall, is generally disease-free, and is a perfect complement to other plants, gravel, or even mulch.
Pumila (Cortaderia selloana)
Native to South America, this compact grass does well in medium-sized gardens. It consists of narrow, greenish-grey leaves and from late summer to mid winter, the leaves are topped with very large plumes that are silky and creamy-white in color. The grass tolerates almost any type of soil and it can grow up to six feet tall and four feet wide.
Quaking Grass (Briza media)
This grass is entertaining and unique. It starts out green with tints of purple, then fades to a tan color as it ages. With flat spikelets that resemble puffy oats and leaves that are soft and deep green in color, it requires very little care, is drought-tolerant, and is perfect when dried and used in fresh or dried arrangements. It also looks great in cottage gardens and in meadows or other naturalized areas.
Red Baron (Imperata cylindrica)
Also known as Japanese Blood Grass, it stands upright and starts out with bright green blades and turns cranberry-red on top in the summer. The grass grows up to 18 inches high and once it’s established, it is drought-tolerant. It is also deer-resistant and very low-maintenance.
Rubrum (Pennisetum setaceum)
Also called Purple Fountain Grass, it has both graceful movement and beautiful color. With rich deep-red foliage and plumes that are crimson and arch gracefully, the Rubrum prefers full sun or partial shade and is the perfect specimen plant. It is ignored by deer and it grows to five feet tall and up to four feet in width. If planted en masse, it provides a very dramatic effect because of its striking colors.
Silver Feather Grass (Stipa barbata)
With upright foliage that is slender and arches upwards, this grass is a shimmery silver color and is one of the showiest mid summer grasses available. It grows to three feet tall and three feet wide and it is virtually free of diseases and pests. It is a low-maintenance grass that looks great in beds, borders, and even in containers.
Strictus (Miscanthus sinensis)
Also called the Porcupine Grass, it is striking with its arching leaves with soft yellow rings around them. The leaves come in colors that include pale brown, subtle pink, and silver, depending on the age of the grass, and it grows up to eight feet tall, making it quite unique.
Zebrinus (Miscanthus sinensis)
Also known as Zebra Grass, it has soft yellow rings around its green foliage and its colors include buff silver, pinkish-copper, and rich gold, depending on its age. It can grow up to seven feet tall and up to six feet in width, meaning that you have to give it a lot of room to grow after you plant it.
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Tags: Grass Categories: Gardens and Landscaping
A Gallery of Ornamental Grasses and Grasslikes
Dr. Mack Thetford
Associate Professor of Environmental Horticulture
University of Florida, West Florida Research and Education Center, Milton, Florida
Japanese Silver Grass, Miscanthus sinensis, is a perennial, clump-forming, warm-season, deciduous grass that has been a popular garden plant for centuries. The common name of Silver Grass is actually a good descriptor for the foliage of this species. The midrib of the leaf blade has a silver stripe on the upper surface that runs the entire length of the leaf blade. Many cultivars have been selected with various patterns of variegation or leaf color, some without the characteristic silver stripe of the species. The leaves grow upward and curve outward while the flowers appear in late summer to fall, towering above the cascades of foliage. Depending on the cultivar, height will range from 3 to 12 feet with a spread of 3 feet or more. The diversity of cultivars within this species should allow you to select a cultivar to meet the size, color and flowering characteristics for your garden needs.
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’, Zebra Grass is a large, upright selection of silver grass. The plant (foliage and flowers collectively) will reach 5 to 6 feet tall and may achieve an equal width. Leaves are from 1½ to 2½ feet in length and have striking horizontal bands of creamy yellow variegation. Copper-pink flowers appear in late summer (August to September) and extend 1 to 2 feet above the foliage. Foliage and flower stalks are very persistent and provide continued beauty and movement during winter months. Plant in a full sun location.
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Arabesque’, Arabesque Silver Grass is a large, upright, compact selection of silver grass with leaves from 1 to 2 feet in length. The plant (foliage and flowers) will reach 3 to 5 feet tall and may achieve an equal width. Golden brown flowers appear in late summer (August to September) and extend 1 to 1½ feet above the foliage. Flowers fade to a clear silvery white and the persistent flower stalks provide continued beauty and movement during winter months. Plant in a full sun location.
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegata’, Variegated Japanese Silver Grass is one of the oldest cultivars of silver grass and has been popular in gardens since the early 1900’s. This is an upright, arching selection of silver grass forming an open, loose clump. Leaves are from 1½ to 2½ feet in length and have vertical bands of creamy white variegation. The plant (foliage and flowers) will reach 4 to 6 feet tall and may achieve an equal width. Golden brown flowers appear in late summer (August to September) and extend 1 to 2 feet above the foliage. Foliage and flower stalks are very persistent and provide continued beauty and movement during winter months. Plant in a full sun to partially shaded location.
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, Morning Light Silver Grass is an introduction by the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. This plant has a fine texture in comparison to most silver grass cultivars. The arching leaves are narrow, ranging from 1/4 to ½ inch in width, 1 to 2 feet in length and along with the flowers, creates a compact, upright clump 4 to 5 feet tall. The center of each leaf is dominated by a bright silver streak while the leaf margins are bordered by a clear, narrow, white stripe. Reddish bronze flowers appear in late summer (September to October) on stalks extending 1 to 2 feet above the foliage and the seedheads dry to a creamy white. Miscanthus sinensis Gracillimus is cultivar with a form and texture similar to Morning Light but with no white stripe. Plant in a full sun location.
Fountain Grass, Pennisetum alopecuroides, is a perennial, clump-forming, warm-season, deciduous grass that has also been a popular garden plant for many years. The common name of Fountain Grass is reminiscent of the overall shape and form of the cascading clumps of foliage and flowers. The narrow leaves grow upward and curve outward and the white flowers appear in early summer to fall, towering above the cascades of foliage. The species with its variable leaf size and form and varied flower color, may reseed itself and move around the garden. For this reason, it is suggested to select cultivars that are grown from divisions to ensure uniform plantings of plants that will not reseed throughout the garden. An interesting variety of Fountain Grass is Pennisetum alopecuroides viridescens, Black Seeded Fountain Grass. This variety has very dark flowers and seedheads and two popular cultivars called Moudry and National Arboretum, although striking in appearance, may prove to be somewhat invasive if the ripe seedheads are not removed after flowering.
Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’, Hameln Fountain Grass is a warm-season, deciduous, perennial fountain grass with dark green foliage and whitish flowers. The leaves are slightly curved, 1/8 to 1/4 inch in width, and 1 to 1½ feet in length. Plants (foliage and flowers) form an upright, mounding clump reaching a size of 2 to 3 feet tall. The inflorescence is 1 to 2 inches wide and 3 to 4 inches long, appear white to creamy tan and are held above the foliage. Flowers begin to appear in July and continue through August. Unlike the species with its variable leaf size and form and varied flower color, the cultivar Hameln does not reseed itself and will provide a planting with a uniform appearance. Plant in a full sun location.
Pennisetum setaceum, Tender Fountain Grass, is a tender, perennial, clump-forming, warm-season, deciduous grass that has also been a popular garden plant for many years. The form is similar to Fountain Grass with cascading clumps of foliage and flowers. The narrow leaves grow upward and curve outward and the flowers, which appear in early summer to fall, are rose-pink. This species is listed as a noxious weed in California, will reseed and move around the garden, and will become a weed in warmer areas where it remains perennial. For this reason, it is suggested to select only cultivars of Pennisetum setaceum Rubrum, Purple Fountain Grass. Although Purple Fountain Grass does not normally set viable seed, an occasional green seedling may occur on a rare basis and should be removed. The following cultivars are grown from divisions to ensure this species will not reseed throughout the garden and neighboring woodlands.
Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’, Purple Fountain Grass is a tender, perennial, warm season, clump-forming grass commonly used as an annual. The 3 to 4 foot plants have an upright, arching form with glossy leaves that are 1/4 to ½ inch wide and 8 to 12 inches long. Leaves are reddish purple and the plant is topped with red-purple plumes of flowers which begin to emerge in late June to early July and continue in the Gulf Coast region until frost. The inflorescence can be from 1 to 2 inches in diameter and up to 6 or 8 inches long occurring on arching stems that hold them 1 to 2 feet above the foliage. Plant in a full sun location. This plant is an excellent accent for any garden and will also tolerate the seacoast conditions of coastal gardens.
Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum Dwarf’, Dwarf Purple Fountain Grass is a dwarf cultivar that is nearly identical to Purple Fountain Grass, only smaller. Dwarf Purple Fountain Grass is also a tender, perennial, warm season, clump-forming grass commonly used as a summer annual and will grow only 1½ to 2½ feet tall and wide with the same foliage and flowering characteristics. The compact size is the only distinguishing characteristic. This is an excellent selection for southern gardeners as this plant does not set viable seed and should not move around the garden or become naturalized.
Phalaris arundinaceae ‘Feeseys Form’, Feeseys Form Ribbon Grass is also known as Strawberries and Cream Ribbon Grass. Many cultivars of ribbon grass are available with creamy white variegation but this selection is prized for the blush of pink that is present on the young growth during cooler times of the year. Ribbon grass is a perennial, creeping, spreading, warm-season, deciduous grass with leaves 3/4 to 1½ inches wide and stems that reach a height of 1½ to 2½ feet tall. Flowers are soft, white terminal panicles that appear in June and will reach1 to 1½ feet above the foliage. While this grass does grow in full sun the foliage may burn. Ribbon grass will perform better in a partial shade and moist to wet location.
Muhlenbergia capillaris, Hairy Awn Muhly is probably one of the most stunning grasses native to the southeastern United States. This is a perennial, warm-season, clump-forming, deciduous grass. Leaves are a blue-green to gray-green, very narrow and almost wire-like. The leaves can be from 2 to 3 feet long and the arching character of the leaves creates a plant of mounded form. The most striking characteristic of this plant is the abundance of flowers that appear from October to November. Stalks of pink-purple flowers occur 2 to 3 feet above the foliage and in such profusion as to completely obscure the foliage. The flowers later fade to a crisp tan and are persistent through the winter. This grass is extremely drought tolerant and grows best in full sun.
Cortaderia selloana ‘Silver Comet’, Silver Comet Pampas Grass is a relatively new selection of pampas grass that can be distinguished by the single white bands of variegation extending along the margins of the leaves. Pampas grass is probably one of the most popular species of ornamental grasses. The species is a perennial, warm-season, evergreen grass which forms dense clumps of foliage, and the leaves have sharp razor-like edges. Leaves are from ½ to 1 inch in width and can range from 1 to 4 feet in length. Plants (foliage and flowers) achieve a height of 4 to 6 feet with similar width. Flowers occur in August with large panicles 6 to 8 inches wide by up to 2 feet long and persist throughout the winter months. The variegated forms of Pampas grass grow slower than the species and the foliage color makes an excellent accent even without the flowers. Plant in a full sun location.
Juncus effusus ‘Spiralis’, Corkscrew Rush is an unusual perennial, grass-like plant for use in wet, boggy areas or garden pools or ponds. Corkscrew Rush is easily distinguished because of its unusual semi-evergreen foliage. The cylindrical, twisted leaves appear to coil like a spring originating from a tight clump and the plant can achieve a height and width of 1 to 1½ feet. Although Corkscrew Rush does flower, it is not grown for this characteristic as the flowers occur in very small cymes located near the end of the leaves and are not very showy. This plant will not tolerate dry periods and should be grown in wet areas, shallow water, or in pots at the edge of your water garden to provide a constant source of moisture. Plant in a full sun to partial shade location.
Equisetum scirpoides, Dwarf Horsetail is a perennial, creeping, spreading, grass-like plant that makes an excellent groundcover in moist, boggy areas. This plant is a miniature form of the scouring rush and resembles this plant in many ways. The evergreen foliage is dark green, jointed, segmented, and contains high quantities of silica which makes them very rough to the touch. The leaves are 1/16 inch in diameter and can reach a height of 6 to 8 inches. Consider containing this plant when used in small gardens as most horsetails can be too vigorous for small home gardens.
All pictures taken and owned by Dr. Mack Thetford.
Before you seed or sod your lawn, consider the climate in your region. “Temperature is the biggest consideration,” says Scotts Miracle-Gro turf grass scientist Phil Dwyer.
The first step? Determine whether you’re located in the North, the South, or the transition zone (according to Landscape-America.com, the strip of land that “follows the lower elevations of Virginia and North Carolina west through West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas and includes southern Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas”). Then, choose from these options:
North: Kentucky Bluegrass
Cool season grasses do best in more moderate temperatures, and this grass is ideal. “It’s great for heavy traffic, it’s very durable, and it’s self-repairing, Dwyer says.
North: Perennial Ryegrass
This is a popular choice if you want to mix grasses thanks to its ability to grow quickly and hold up under heavy traffic, but it can also be sown on its own.
North: Fine Fescue
This fine grass prefers shade, making it a good option for areas beneath trees. It won’t hold up to foot traffic as well as Kentucky bluegrass, but you can use it for filling in areas where other types of grass might not grow.
North/Transition: Tall Fescue
With its deep roots, this type of grass can survive drought periods—great for areas near the transition zone, or places that don’t get tons of rain. It also withstands heat well, so it will work in super hot regions.
Transition: Zoysia Grass
This transition zone grass prefers full sun. Its thickness makes it a popular option for golf courses.
Transition: Bermuda Grass
This versatile warm-season grass does well in areas that often reach the upper 80s and 90s, but it can also withstand colder periods. It’s common down south and in California.
South: St. Augustine Grass
Even further down south—in parts of southern Texas and Florida—you’ll want a grass that can tolerate extreme heat and droughts. This wide-bladed grass is coarse and tough, and can even be grown in soils with some sand.
South: Centipede Grass
Looking for a low-maintenance option? This one’s for you! This short, low-growing grass holds its own against pests and is commonly found in the Carolinas, Louisiana, and Mississippi since it can grow in acidic soils.
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Types of Short Grass Plants
ornamental grass image by Edsweb from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>
Short grass plants are landscaping multi-taskers. They bring a natural look to perennial beds and soften rock gardens and paved areas. They’re solutions to the problem of concealing fading bulb plants. They make appealing—and erosion-preventing—groundcovers. Short grass plants work equally well as focal points or massed in groups. Working them into a garden design is a one-step journey to a landscape alive with texture, color, form and motion.
For most of the growing season, purple lovegrass (Eragrostis spectabilis) is a clump of narrow, 10-inch green leaves. Between late July and October, however, a cloud of purple-red flower clusters rises above its foliage on 12- to 14-inch stems, increasing the plant’s height to 2 feet. The flowers are attractive additions to dried floral designs, notes the Missouri Botanical Garden. Spent blooms often drop from the plant, releasing seeds as they blow along the ground. Hardy to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, purple lovegrass is a good choice for infertile, dry well-drained soil and full sun.
Japanese Blood Grass 'Rubra'
Japanese blood grass (Imperata cylindrical), also hardy to minus 20 degrees F, is a 12- to 18-inch clumping grass with upright, one-quarter inch wide green leaves. The ‘Rubra’ Japanese blood grass cultivar puts on a summer display when upper half of its foliage turns red in early summer. Intensifying to, and remaining, burgundy before its winter dormancy, ‘Rubra’ is most impressive planted to catch backlight from early morning or late afternoon sun. This grass tolerates both sun (for best color) and partial shade, states the Missouri Botanical Garden. It likes averagely moist, well-drained soil.
Fountain Grass 'Little Honey'
Fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) ‘Little Honey’ is an arching grass with 6- to 12-inch foliage. This diminutive plant packs a big ornamental punch with glossy, green-and-white variegated leaves. Between August and October, notes the Missouri Botanical Garden, ‘Little Honey’ has greenish flower heads that develop a metallic golden sheen as they ripen. They remain on the plant into early winter. Suitable for small garden areas or containers, it makes a good border or rock garden edger. It likes moist or wet, averagely fertile soil and flowers most heavily in full sun.
Autumn Moor Grass
Autumn moor grass (Seslaria autumnalis) has a clump of 9- to 12-inch, narrow, yellow-green leaves. Stems of green summer flowers increase its height to 18 inches. This short grass plant is at its ornamental best in autumn, when silvery seed heads replace its spent flowers. Attractive as a large area groundcover, it handles almost any sunny or partially shady spot with dry to averagely moist, well-drained soil. While drought-tolerant, autumn moor grass suffers in high heat and humidity, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden.