Add interest and color to your fall garden with ornamental grasses!
Whether you want to make a statement, block out the neighbor’s house without a fence, or just add shape, texture, and prairie-chic style to your outdoor space, the answer is ornamental grass.
Ornamental grasses are unfussy, resilient, and an ideal choice for low-maintenance gardens. Most are drought-resistant and do well in colder climates. Here’s why it’s time to make your landscape better with ornamental grasses:
1. Ornamental Grasses Add Texture
Ornamental grasses act as punctuation marks in the garden and landscape. Their texture creates a delightful contrast against most annuals and perennials. And just because they’re grasses doesn’t mean they look like giant versions of what’s growing in your lawn. Ornamental grasses run the spectrum from variegated to green, and even red or purple.
2. They Create Winter Interest
Some ornamental grasses do a great job of staying upright in the winter, so you can enjoy their texture even when other plants have gone dormant. And many, including fountain grass and native switch grass, provide seeds to feed birds in the winter.
3. You Can Use them in Container Gardens
Ornamental grasses are so versatile that you can include them in container gardens as well as your landscape beds and borders. Try using some of the same grasses in pots on your front porch, patio, or deck as you have growing in your yard.
4. There’s a Wide Variety
It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking all ornamental grasses look pretty much the same. At first glance, they do, but when you take a closer look, you’ll discover there’s a whole world to choose from. For example:
Pink Muhly Grass: This rugged native grass forms rounded, arching blue green leaves throughout the summer and when fall rolls around each plant sends up dozens of lovely, pink, feathery flowers.
Miscanthus: Also known as Zebra Grass, this tough-as-nails perennial forms thick clumps of narrow green foliage banded with creamy-gold stripes and topped with a silvery crown of fluffy seed heads in the fall.
Little Bluestem: This grass thrives in hot, sunny places and is prized for it’s pretty blue-green leaves that turn spectacular shades of red and purple in the fall. This is one of the best choices for northern gardens with heavy clay soil.
Switch Grass: Super hardy Switch Grass thrives in heat, drought, and poor soil. In the spring it produces bright green leaves elegantly brushed with red, followed by reddish-pink flower heads in the summer and in the fall, the foliage turns into glowing shades of red and purple.
Feather Reed Grass: Prized for its upright habit, Feather Reed Grass produces dark green foliage topped with creamy flower heads in late summer. The leaves turn a pretty tan color in the fall, providing winter interest in the garden.
Mondo Grass: One of the best ground covers for sunny or partially sunny locations, Mondo Grass forms tight clumps of dark green leaves that retain their color all year long. The plants produce spikes of blue flowers in the summer followed by blue-black berries in the fall.
Japanese Forest Grass: This graceful, low-growing ornamental grass forms dense, spreading mounds and thrives in shade. Japanese Forest Grass also boasts bright chartreuse foliage that practically glows.
Pampas Grass: Probably the best known (and most striking) of the ornamental grasses is pampas grass. In the fall, it produces feathery plumes and it’s available in white and pink varieties.
Be sure to choose an ornamental grass that’s hardy in your region. Some prefer milder climates and others can handle cold winters with no problem. Here are a few more things to keep in mind when planting ornamental grasses:
- When to plant: Perennial ornamental grasses can be planted in the spring or early fall—with the exception of muhly grass, which won’t make it through the winter if planted late in the growing season.
- When to water: Be sure to water new grasses every other day after planting for the first few weeks. Except for the water-loving varieties, most ornamental grasses won’t need extra water once established.
- When to feed: If planting in the spring, feed your new ornamental grasses with H-G Plant Food two weeks after planting. If planting in the fall, feed them with H-G Plant-Aide to encourage strong roots.
What are your favorite ornamental grasses? Head to our Facebook page and let us know—we’d love to hear from you!