Ornamental Grasses Becoming More Popular

I have seen a lot of beautiful ornamental grasses recently. Is this a good time to plant them? What kinds do you suggest?

The ornamental grasses come into their prime in mid-summer. Most of them are perennial, so now is a good time to plant them. They are relatively easy to care for and have a lot of beauty in the fall and winter.

‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass (Calamagrostis acutifolia) is my favorite. Plants stand up straight as a soldier. They bend in heavy wind, but spring right back to their 4 to 5 foot upright position.  Their feathery golden spikes reach full height by mid-summer. Feather reed grass makes an excellent background or specimen plant which continues to look attractive into the winter.

‘Skyracer’ moor grass (Molinia caerulea) is another variety which produces loose golden seed panicles early in the summer. ‘Skyracer’ grows almost 6 feet high. Leaves turn a golden yellow in October which adds to its beauty. A cousin of ‘Skyracer’ is the dwarfer ‘Variegata’ moor grass with green and yellow striped leaves. ‘Variegata’ grows only 3 feet high, but has the same loose golden seed panicles.

‘Bronze Veil’ tufted hair grass (Deschampsia caespitosa) has one foot tufted green clumps of grass that are topped by loose, hair-like panicles about 3 feet in height. The bronzy-colored seed heads last from mid-summer into the winter.

There are a number of varieties of maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis). Plants grow 5 feet high or taller during the summer. Then in September they produce spectacular silver flowers resembling hands with fingers. ‘Variegatus’ has gold stripes the length of the leaves. Porcupine grass has broad yellow stripes across the wide leaves. ‘Purpurascens’ has purple and gold leaves which are especially bright in the fall.

Fountain grass, (Pennisetum alopecuroides) produces 3 foot fountain shaped plants topped by purplish-pink fox tail flowers in late summer and fall.  Variety ‘Hameln’ has the same form but grows only 2 feet tall. ‘Little Bunny’ grows a foot high. There are purple leaf varieties available also.

Best selection is found in full-service nurseries.



Allen Wilson

Allen has been writing about gardening for over 30 years. He is a retired professor of Horticulture.

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