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Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental Grasses are becoming very popular with gardeners.  They add:
  • Texture
  • Interest
  • Motion with the breeze
Use the smaller, clump forming grasses as accent plants and the larger varieties such as Miscanthus varieties for their stature.  Tall grasses are effective as a privacy screen or combine well with evergreen shrubs.

The graceful, arching foliage of grasses display rich colors over a long season. Greens and blues are common in the summer, followed by rich, autumnal colors in fall and winter. Most have seedpods, flowerheads or plumes that dry well and last into winter. Leave the seedpods and plumes on the plants to add interest to the garden over winter.

Requirements for Growth

  • Full sun
  • Well-drained soil
  • Little to no pruning needed
  • Pest and disease resistant
  • Cut back mid to late winter for new growth
Cool Season Grasses
  • Grow early spring when temperatures rise above freezing
  • Brightest foliage
  • Flower by mid summer
  • Transplant in spring or fall only
  • Combine well with spring bulbs
Warm Season Grasses
  • Require 2 weeks of warm temperatures before growth begins
  • Flowers mid to late summer
  • Hides dying foliage of spring bulbs (tulips, daffodils)
  • Transplant / divide only after signs of growth and before blossoms are formed
  • When combining with other grasses, plant warm season grasses behind cool season grasses
Three Grasses for Zone Four

    Blue Oat Grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens)
    • Cool season, clump forming
    • Steel blue foliage
    • 2 - 3 feet tall and wide
    • Flowers June through August
    • Full sun to light shade, good drainage
    • Drought tolerant once established
    • Insect and disease resistant
    • Propagate in spring through division
    • Use as accent, in containers, in perennial beds combining well with Russian sage, blanketflower and sedum 'Autumn Joy'
    Flame Grass (Miscnthus sinensis var. purpurascens)
    • Warm season, clump forming 
    • Green foliage turning coppery bronze in autumn
    • Stems are red brick in fall making good winter interest
    • 4 - 5 feet tall
    • Flowers late summer to fall with silver seed heads on showy plumes
    • Full sun to bright shade, good drainage
    • Ample moisture
    • Insect and disease resistant
    • Leave plumes over winter for interest
    • Cut back early spring to about 6 inches above the crown of the plant
    • Divide in spring when growth begins up to when plant is about 18 inches tall
    • Partners well with rudbeckia, sedum and asters
    Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster)
    • Cool season, clump forming, long lived, sterile
    • Green foliage
    • 3 - 4 feet tall
    • Flowers June through July
    • Full sun to light shade
    • Well drained fertile soil.  Extra fertilizer required for maximum growth
    • Not drought tolerant
    • Generally pest and disease resistant but can develop foliar rust in situations of poor air cirulation
    • Leave plumes for winter interest
    • Cut back late winter to about 6 inches above the crown of the plant
    • Propagate through division early spring
    • Excellent specimen plant, use in containers and perennial borders.  Combines well with mid to late summer, early fall blooming perennials such as coreopsis, echinacea and rudbeckia

Dinah Wilson,
Jul 29, 2011, 9:05 AM
Dinah Wilson,
Jan 25, 2012, 7:54 AM