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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.