Ornamental Grasses



Fountain Grass photo courtesy of Allan Hack on flickr Fountain Grass photo courtesy of Allan Hack on flickr.

While ornamental grasses provide year-round interest, the fall season is their time to shine!  As summer blooms are fading, these perennial grasses provide great fall color.

Seed head of Miscanthus 'Adagio'

Seed head of Miscanthus ‘Adagio’

Some even sport fluffy, showy seed heads such as pampas grass, pennisetum (fountain grass) and miscanthus (Maiden Grass or Japanese Silver Grass), that are especially beautiful with the rising or setting sun shining behind them. Ornamental grasses are great low-maintenance landscape plants.  They provide contrast to blooms, and create texture and movement in the landscape. With their varying forms, texture and shades, there is a grass for nearly every application.  Ornamental grasses provide a great contrast to blooms; they can be used in place of shrubs, mixed into the perennial border, as groundcovers, create nice edging and soften hard lines.  Some varieties are large and fast growing making them ideal for screens or hedges to create a little privacy.  In contrast, there are many small to medium sized varieties that work wonderfully in containers, with or without other plants.

Purple Muhly Grass color echos Loropetalum 'Crimson Fire'

Purple Muhly Grass color echos Loropetalum ‘Crimson Fire’

Ornamental grasses are a great choice in the landscape. Like evergreens, they don’t drop their foliage in dormancy.  When summer blooms seem far away, you’ll find beauty in the frost covered blades on winter mornings. Birds will love the addition of grasses to your yard as well.  Birds dine on the seed heads, use the reeds for nest making and take shelter in large clumps.

Care

Pampas Grass photo courtesy of Kurt Nordstrom

Pampas Grass photo courtesy of Kurt Nordstrom via flickr

Ornamental grasses are adaptable and fairly easy going.  Most require well drained soil although sedges (Carex) will tolerate moist conditions.  Once established, most grasses will only require watering in periods of drought and are normally pest and disease free.  Normally, grasses rarely need feeding.  If you must, provide a slow release, low-nitrogen, fertilizer in early spring.  Grasses benefit from a hair cut in late winter or early spring but be mindful that some types of grasses will take most of spring to regain their growth.  This is also the time to divide clumps if necessary.

Easy going ornamental grasses are sure to find their spot in your landscape!

Varieties We Love

Miscanthus 'Adagio' atop a table of Heuchera at the garden center.

Miscanthus ‘Adagio’ atop a table of Heuchera at the garden center.

Pennisetum (Fountain Grass)
Pennisetum ‘Hameln’
Pennisetum ‘Moudry’
Pennisetum ‘Red Head’

Miscanthus (Japanese Silver Grass, Maiden Grass)
Miscanthus ‘Gracillimus’
Miscanthus ‘Rigoletto’
Miscanthus ‘Adagio’
Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’
Miscanthus ‘Little Zebra’

Carex (Sedge)
Carex ‘Prairie Fire’
Carex ‘Ice Dance’
Carex ‘Amazon Mist’

Muhlenbergia capillaris (Muhly Grass)

Cortaderia ‘Pumila’ (Pampas Grass)

Three types of sedge shown on tables at the garden center.

Three types of sedge shown on tables at the garden center.

 

Soft grasses Pennisetum 'Red Head' & Miscanthus 'Rigoletto' contrast well with this strong, stone fountain.

Soft grasses Pennisetum ‘Red Head’ & Miscanthus ‘Rigoletto’ contrast well with this strong, stone fountain.

Miscanthus 'Gracillimus'

Miscanthus ‘Gracillimus’