10 Best Ornamental Grasses For Landscape: (Sun & Shade)

Ornamental grasses are not like other grass that is used as ground cover. These grass are meant to grow for their beautiful textures and colors. 

Most of them are not steppable and not trimmed when grown big. You can plant ornamental plants in containers as a companion with other colorful foliage plants.

Once you start exploring ornamental grasses, you will be amazed. There are tons of types of grasses different in shapes, sizes, and colors, you can plant into the garden.

Here, I listed the best ornamental grasses that are popular and usually grown as a decorator.

You will learn about different types of ornamental grasses in detail. So that you would be able to choose one for your garden.

So, let’s get started:

Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental Grass

Ornamental grasses typically have either a spreading habit or a clumping habit. Spreading habit plants grow taller and more dramatic while clumping habits are short mounds. Below you will find popular ornamental grasses of both types. Choose according to your garden needs

Egyptian Papyrus

Egyptian papyrus

  • USDA zones: 8 to 11
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil needs: Rich, wet

This is an African native grass or grass-like plant. This is a perfect fit for an ornamental plant, it has thin long, blades. Its blades grow up to 72 inches long and thrive in moist soil. The grass is perennial in the area that does not experience freezing.

Blue Fescue

Festuca californica ‘Serpentine Blue’

  • USDA zones: 4 to 8
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil needs: Dry to medium moisture, well-drained

Fescue is a low-growing grass but it is not as short as sheared turf grasses. Fescue species are used for borders, edgings, and ground covers. In the world of ornamental grasses, fescue is considered short, clump grass. Some fescue is also grown as ground cover plants like red fescue. 

There are many fescue varieties like blue fescue, atlas fescue, California fescue, and sheep fescue that consider ornamental grasses.

Blue Oat Grass

Blue Oat Grass {helictotrichon sempervirens}

  • USDA zones: 4 to 8
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil needs: Medium moisture, well-drained

Blue oat grass is ornamental grass that grows up to 3 to 6 feet in height and spreads 1 to 3 feet. Blue oat grass has silver-blue blades with light beige when the sun appears on them in the summer.

The plant likes full sun and weekly water. They can become drought tolerant once they get established. It is great for a rock garden with native succulents, native landscaping, mass plantings, and borders.

Bamboo

Bamboo

  • USDA zones: 4  to up, depending upon the variety
  • Sun Exposure: Partial shade
  • Soil needs: Loose, slightly acidic, and well-drained soil

We should not forget that bamboo is also a member of the grass family. It grows upright and spreads quickly in warm temperatures. Bamboo is native to China and was introduced to western in the mid 19 century. They grow really fast and need more water in the growing season.

Bamboo is usually not wintered tolerant. However, varieties like Nuda (hardy in zone 4), Bisetti (hardy in zone 4), Giant leaf (hardy in zone 5), and Spectabilis (hardy in zone 5) are winter hardy. 

In the frost, bamboo shoots often die, but their roots survive. It is evergreen in USDA zones 5 and above.

Black Mondo Grass

star Ophiopogon_planis

  • USDA zones: 6 to 9
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil needs: Moist, slightly acid, humus

Black mondo grass is actually not black. It has purple-greenish bold blades that grow about 8 inches tall and spread wider, making it an ideal ground plant. It looks striking companion with light purple lavender, chartreuse, or lime-colored plants. This grass does well in full sun to partial sun, well-drained and moist soil.

New Zealand Flax

Phormium tenax Herb Garden

  • USDA zones: 8 to 10
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil needs: Rich, moist, and well-drained soil.

New Zealand flax is a popular ornamental grass for commercial and residential applications. It grows 5 feet high and spreads about 4 feet. New Zealand Flax leaves are greenish-red, bolder, or more strap-like than other grass. 

The plant needs to be divided every two to three years. Although it is not an easy task, to divide it. But after dividing the New Zealand flax and replant in different locations. You will get a new plant for free.

Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima or Stipa tenuissima)

Mexican Feather Grass

  • USDA zones: 6 to 10
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil needs: loamy, acid, sand, and clay tolerant, well-drained

You have Mexican feather grass all over the tower. Actually, this grass species has thin feather-like blades that contain seeds on its tip. Even a slight wind blows its seeds in the surrounding. If you grow one in your garden there is a high chance it will spread to the neighbor’s garden or even above the roof of the house. 

This is a hardy plant that thrives in dry conditions, poor soil, and even if cut back. That’s why it’s often considered to be invasive. However, they look fantastic when the wind blows its feather blades.

Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra)

  • USDA zones: 5 to 9
  • Sun Exposure: Part shade
  • Soil needs: humusy, moist and well-drained

As you can guess from the name this plant is a Japanese native. Japanese forest grass is a popular clump grass, its cultivars like “All gold” and “Areola” have variegated green and yellow leaves.

The grass has a bright slender stem that looks like a tiny bamboo stalk. It looks wonderful in containers to accompany purple or dark green plants in the border garden.

This plant needs a little bit more maintenance, regular watering, especially in the hot summer.

Japanese Blood Grass (Imperata Cylindra ‘Rubra’)

  • USDA zones: 5 to 9
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part sun
  • Soil needs: Moist, well-drained

Japanese blood grass is red, yellow, and green grass that is native to India, Africa, Australia, Micronesia, and Melanesia. It grows upright, reaches up to four feet, and spreads slowly underground.

It is also called cogon grass, thrives in damp, rich soil, and needs moisture to keep growing. Especially in the hot summer, it needs more water, else its foliage color might fade away or die. In some regions, blood grass is considered invasive.

Note: Japanese blood grass is an invasive grass species that according to U.S. federal law is illegal to grow without a permit. But its cultivar “Rubra” is less invasive relative to this and is sold in garden centers in the cold zones where it is easier to control than warmer zones.

To be safe, research whether your state permits this variety, before buying or planting it.

Did I Miss Anything?

Now I’d like to hear from you: which ornamental grass from today’s post are you going to try first? Or maybe, I didn’t mention your favorite ornamental grass. Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.

Before going if you want to grow beautiful flowers in your garden? Then click on these articles also.

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