Gardening with Ornamental Grasses

Low-maintenance and versatile, gardening with ornamental grasses is a great way to prove that grass is more than a tidy green carpet in your backyard. With this comprehensive list of our top picks, growing ornamental grasses has never been easier!

  • Gardening with Ornamental Grasses: Indian Grass

    Indian Grass

    Sorghastrum nutans • Zones 5 to 8
    Indian grass will add stunning greens, glowing bronzes and cool blues to your garden throughout the year with little work on your part. It grows up to 4 feet high and 2 feet wide, giving it a spectacular columnar effect.

  • Gardening with Ornamental Grasses: Blue Fescue

    Blue Fescue

    Festuca glauca • Zones 4 to 8
    Lovers of this ornamental grass don’t mind having the blues at all. You’ll warm up to blue fescue, too, for its compact, container-friendly tufts and bright hue. It grows to about 6 to 12 inches tall.

  • Gardening with Ornamental Grasses: Japanese Blood Grass

    Japanese Blood Grass

    Imperata cylindrica • Zones 4 to 9
    Get ready for color when you plant Japanese blood grass. Its showy apple-green blades turn blood-red from middle to top in the summer and stay lovely through autumn. This ornamental grass stands erect, topping out at 2 feet, and tolerates a variety of soils. It can become invasive.

  • Gardening with Ornamental Grasses: Pampas Grass

    Pampas Grass

    Cortaderia selloana • Zones 6 to 11
    Add some drama to your yard with these fast-growing, eye-catching plumes. Feathery pampas grass grows up to 10 feet high and 5 feet wide, but some of the more compact cultivars, including Pumila and Compacta, produce plants that are about 6 feet tall.

  • Gardening with Ornamental Grasses: Blue Oat Grass

    Blue Oat Grass

    Helictotrichon sempervirens • Zones 4 to 8
    Planted in a border or container, or used as a stand-alone accent, gardening with ornamental grasses like the blue oat grass makes a big statement in any backyard. This ornamental attains greater height and stronger blades than blue fescue while showing off a similarly striking shade of blue. For best foliage color, give it full sun in cool regions and light shade in warm areas.

  • Gardening with Ornamental Grasses: Fountain Grass

    Fountain Grass

    Pennisetum alopecuroides • Zones 5 to 9
    With full tufts of fuzzy flower spikes, this ethereal ornamental grass seems to be heaven-sent. One or more of its many varieties will add charm to your backyard paradise. This grass reaches just 2 to 5 feet.

  • Gardening with Ornamental Grasses: Switchgrass

    Switchgrass

    Panicum virgatum • Zones 4 to 9
    This easygoing and versatile ornamental grass is a good choice for wet conditions, drought or partial shade, as long as it’s planted in moist, well-draining soil. Growing narrow and upright with a cloud of seed heads in fall, switchgrass can reach more than 5 feet tall. This grass is native to North America.

  • Gardening with Ornamental Grasses: Miscanthus

    Miscanthus

    Miscanthus sinensis • Zones 4 to 9
    You’ll be on cloud nine with the fluffy tops of this ornamental grass. The big, showy flower heads and height of up to 12 feet give it a graceful profile. In autumn, its silky gray panicles turn maroon or purplish-brown. Plant miscanthus in a sun-drenched area.

  • Gardening with Ornamental Grasses: Japanese Forest Grass

    Japanese Forest Grass

    Hakonechloa macra • Zones 5 to 9
    This slow-growing plant has dense masses of arching golden stems that take on a reddish-pink tinge in fall. To enliven a shady area, plant it as a specimen, ground cover or border.

  • More From Birds & Blooms
  • Gardening with Ornamental Grasses: Indian Grass

    Indian Grass

  • Gardening with Ornamental Grasses: Blue Fescue

    Blue Fescue

  • Gardening with Ornamental Grasses: Japanese Blood Grass

    Japanese Blood Grass

  • Gardening with Ornamental Grasses: Pampas Grass

    Pampas Grass

  • Gardening with Ornamental Grasses: Blue Oat Grass

    Blue Oat Grass

  • Gardening with Ornamental Grasses: Fountain Grass

    Fountain Grass

  • Gardening with Ornamental Grasses: Switchgrass

    Switchgrass

  • Gardening with Ornamental Grasses: Miscanthus

    Miscanthus

  • Gardening with Ornamental Grasses: Japanese Forest Grass

    Japanese Forest Grass

  1. Linda Thompson says

    Pampas Grass is extremely hard to eradicate. I believe it is considered an invasive species in California (I believe it originates from Australia). The seeds blow everywhere in the wind.

    • Jo says

      They’ve come out with a sterile variety, but I really don’t know much about its performance as I’m not a big fan of Pampas begin with.
      Use caution with the Japanese Blood Grass also. Although I used it with excellent results when I lived in SoCal, but I’ve since learned that it’s been banned in 25 states due to its invasive nature and its high silica content. The silica renders it ungrazable and it can crowd out all of the nutritious & beneficial pasture area plants within 2-3 years.
      Personally, I would still use it, but I’d be vigilant about removing any inflorescences before they matured. I’d also just pot it. That’s so much easier than using deep root isolation if putting it in the ground. I might be OCD, but there are many times when I’m a lazy OCD.

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