10 Ornamental Grasses For Texture & Contrast In The Landscape
Discover The Best Ornamental Grass For Your Garden!
Ornamental grasses are invaluable additions to the landscape, but we don’t think they get enough credit. They rustle in the breeze, produce plumes of flowers, and add interest through the winter. They’re beautiful and functional, serving as low-cost privacy screens and borders. As an added bonus, they’re adaptable, deer-resistant, and create a habitat for wildlife. What’s not to love? No matter the unique landscape goal, these ornamental grasses are approved by Great Garden Plants horticulturists to be a great addition to your garden.
What Are Ornamental Grasses?
Are all ornamental grasses really grasses? Not really. The term “ornamental grass” is often used as an umbrella term to group together multiple perennials with a grass-like appearance, including true grasses, sedges (Carex), and rushes (Juncus). Horticulturists use the phrase “sedges have edges, rushes are round, and grasses have nodes from top to the ground” to remember their distinct stems.
Other than stem shape, there are a few key differences between the three groups. Unlike most grasses, sedges grow well in shade and can tolerate moisture, making them popular additions to wet-shaded sites. They’re semi-evergreen and keep their color all year long in warmer zones, especially those in the EverColor® series. Rushes are naturally found in very wet or even boggy sites, making them well-suited for rain gardens or nearby water features. We love growing them in containers for a playful texture, especially if you choose Big Twister. Finally, true grasses (like Miscanthus, Festuca, and Calamagrostis) thrive in full sun and well-draining soils, producing spikes of flowers and seed heads in late summer.
We group all of them as “ornamental grasses” for one main reason: it’s a lot easier that way! They all add similar structure, texture, color, and movement, making them a must-have for your landscape.
Ornamental Grasses For Full Sun:
These grasses are true sun lovers! Generally, many varieties of ornamental grasses grow well in full sun (8+ hours of sunlight/day) environments, and these are no exception. Not only do these grasses grow rapidly in full sun, but many are also heat and drought-tolerant, making them excellent additions to an array of landscapes in growing zones 4 through 9. From open prairies to pavilions, these ornamental grasses will thrive.
Ornamental Grasses For Shade:
While many ornamental grasses grow best in full sun, there are still many options for shade gardeners. When searching for shade grasses, look for varieties that need less than 4 hours of sunlight daily. These grasses are also more cold-tolerant and will add style and texture to slopes or other shaded areas of the garden.
Tall Ornamental Grasses:
Ornamental grasses are an excellent choice for adding privacy to any home, creating a border along a driveway, screening between neighbor patios, and more. They grow quickly, with some reaching up to 5ft tall within the first growing season, which means you won’t have to wait long to enjoy their beauty and functionality. Plant in the spring or fall, and watch them flourish as the tall textures last up to 20 years!
Ornamental Grasses For Color:
Are you looking for a pop of color for your maximalist garden? These grasses are sure to wow! Not all ornamental grasses just green, with some featuring gold, pink, blue, or even purple hues. When planting, make these grasses the focal point, or use them as a backdrop to your perennial flower garden.