Ornamental Grass Using Decorative Grasses in the Landscape

Ornamental grass can add interest to your garden, particularly when it is mixed with other perennial plants.

Decorative grasses in the landscape have many great features which are often ignored.

  • One of the nicest things about decorative grasses is their textures and forms… a nice change of texture next to other perennials.
  • The foliage is typically long, similar to that of a Daylily.
  • Grasses offer great late summer interest with there beautiful plumes.
  • And if you are lazy at the end of summer, don’t cut them down until the spring…they look pretty in the winter too.

Gardening with grasses also adds something different than flowers, and that is their feathery plumes. They might be the height of the foliage or they might extend way beyond. In either case, they provide a different type of interest.

Plumes usually occur in late summer and continue into the fall. This is another advantage if you want some plants with interesting features later in the season.

While many perennials can look pretty sad in the winter, here is where grasses show off. Their tan colored blades provide great winter interest, and seeing the taller ones billowing in the wind is a pleasant site!

There are many decorative kinds of grass to choose from. I am going to list my favorites. These are the ones that I often use in my perennial garden designs.

Maiden Grass

Botanically known as Miscanthus, this is one of the taller ornamental grasses. Some that are easy to find at garden centers are:

Maiden Grass on top of a wall.

1. Straight species with solid green foliage – beautiful!
2. Morning Light which is a soft combination of lighter and darker green colors.
3. Zebra Grass with its intermittent horizontal gold bands, making it very interesting!

Maiden Grass will get to be about five feet tall. It provides a nice focal point, a background for other perennials, or even a screen. Like other grasses, it will develop lovely plumes.

Fountain Grass

This grass is very similar to Maiden Grass, but it is smaller.

Fountain Grass Hamlen gets to be about 30 inches high.

It actually comes in different sizes, the smallest being ‘Little Bunny’ and the largest being ‘Hamlin’ or just the regular Fountain Grass. I use ‘Hamlin’ or just the regular species mostly due to its larger size.

Its plumes are delicate and put on a great show in the late summer and early fall. One of my favorite grasses.

Purple Fountain Grass

Purple Fountain Grass in the foreground.

This is really an annual in most areas. Yet it is very attractive due to the fact that it has maroon colored foliage.

Use it in the garden or even in planters. It will get to be about fifteen inches tall but looks taller when it plumes mid to late summer and into the fall.

Speaking of planters, this grass looks great in a tall urn placed on a patio or either side of a front porch.

Mexican Feather Grass

ornamental grass Mexican Feather Grass

I stumbled on this grass via another landscape designer, Thomas Rainer. He planted it in his fort yard along with Salvia ‘Cardona’ which produces striking purple flowers. The contrast of form and colors were amazing!

I decided to give it a try, although it was a chance since it’s planting zone is a little warmer than mine. The picture above shows it in the fall. It is now spring and I am waiting to see if survived…I hope so!

Japanese Blood Grass

What’s attractive about this grass is its color! It is red with some green mixed in during the season…however, in late summer it turns a vivid fire-red color.

When the sunlight hits this plant, it is amazing.

Japanese Blood Grass is a small decorative grass, so you may want to use a few together.

It hardly reaches a foot high.

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