Ornamental grasses are 4-season performers! From the time they’re fresh and green in summer, to the time the top growth dies off in winter, they provide us with enjoyment! Grasses will stay robust and attractive, even during the “dog days” of summer when many plants wilt in the heat. They’ll turn brilliant shades of gold and rust in the fall. The seed heads that are formed, along with the foliage itself, look great all through the winter…especially when covered with hoarfrost or snow.
Ornamental grasses are worth growing just for the music they make when the slightest breeze blows. Situate them around your patio area and enjoy the concert! Grasses “dance” in the wind, which can soothe you after a long day. The seeds that form will attract birds to your garden. These are just a few of the many reasons to include Ornamental Grasses in your landscape…now, there are some ideas on how to use them:
Plant grasses in groupings throughout your landscape to create what landscape designers refer to as “harmony and repetition.” Because many grasses have the same height and form, you can plant a number of different varieties and still achieve “harmony.”
Taller grasses (such as Erianthus ravennae) can act as specimens creating a vertical accent that will stand out in your garden. They can also be used for screening and privacy.
Smaller grasses (such as Festuca) make striking accents in the perennial border. The blue color of Blue Fescue acts as a nice contrast to other perennial flowers.
Grasses add texture and softness to existing plantings. Their full, rippling heads appear like spraying fountains when interspersed with foliage plants.
Caring for Ornamental Grasses: Although no plant is maintenance free, grasses come close. They grow well in almost any soil and rarely need watering once established. They are seldom bothered by pests or disease. Grasses are best planted in spring or summer so that their extensive root systems can get well-established. Cut back grasses close to the ground (6”) in spring when new shoots are forming to give them room to grow. If the clump has died out in the center, rejuvenate it by dividing it at this time.
Most ornamental grasses mature in about 3 years, which makes them perfect for screening, to create a focal point, to frame a view, or to accent an otherwise dull area. Many varieties are quick spreaders and make unusual groundcovers, others are well-suited to being grown in a container. Be sure to check the variety, some have a tendency to become invasive if not kept in bounds. They can also be used as dried flowers, ready for cutting when other dried flowers have already given up for the year. Whatever they are used for, there is no doubt as to the peaceful, natural look they can add to any landscape.
Andropogon gerardi (Big Bluestem) Full sun to part shade.
Calamagrostis acutiflora (Feather Reed Grass): Full sun – half shade.
C. ‘Karl Foerster’
Carex (Sedge): Full sun – part shade
*C. caryophyllea ‘Beatlemania’
C. elata ‘Bowles Golden’
C. morrowii ‘Ice Dance’)
*C. siderosticha ‘Silver Scepter’
Chasmanthium latifolium (Northern Sea Oats)
*Deschampsia caespitosa ‘Northern Lights’
Erianthus ravennae (Hardy Pampass, Plume Grass)
Festuca (Fescue): Full Sun
F. glauca ‘Blue Fescue’
*F. glauca ‘Boulder Blue’
F. glauca ‘Elijah Blue’
Helictotrichon sempervirens (Blue Oat Grass)
Miscanthus sinensis (Eulalia or Maiden Grass)
M. ‘Autumn Light’
M. ‘Ferner Osten’
M. ‘Huron Sunrise’
M. ‘Morning Light’
Panicum (Switch Grass): Full sun
P. virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’
P. virgatum ‘Prairie Sky’
P. ‘Dallas Blues’
Pennisetum alopercuroides (Fountain Grass)
Phalaris (Ribbon Grass): Full sun
P. arundinacea ‘Feesey or Strawberries & Cream’
P. arundinacea ‘Picta’
Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem)
Sorghastrum nutans (Indian Grass)
Sporobolus heterolepsis (Prairie Dropseed)