Some 25 years ago it was quite a challenge to find grasses for landscaping. Compare it with the present day scenario where gardeners everywhere use them quite liberally in their garden, growing different types of ornamental grasses in the same landscape.
There are several advantages to growing ornamental grass in your garden, a few of them are listed below.
- They are low maintenance plants
- They grow easily and vigorously
- Flowering time is usually long
- They are less vulnerable to insects and diseases
- They are readily available in most nurseries
Frankly there is a huge array of grasses to choose from for landscaping. It can be quite a task to decide upon the grass to grow, the best advice would be to grow the grass which meets your fancy without worrying too much about anything else.
Ornamental grasses, types of them, in addition to being extremely attractive are also very versatile and effortless to grow. Just watching a clump of feather reed grasses swaying beautifully in the afternoon breeze is enough to bring about a sense of inner peace.
When you buy an ornamental grass variety for landscaping consider your selection based on three factors
- The foliage
- The flowers
- The seed heads
You can purchase native grasses or exotic grass to suit your landscape requirements, each providing variety of foliage, flowers and lush seed heads. The best way to plant your grasses is in masses. Don’t isolate the grasses from your other garden plants, rather try to blend them with the other plants.
Popular Types of Ornamental Grasses For Landscaping
Here we have listed some of the most popular ornamental grasses that you can consider planting in your garden.
Feather Reed Grass – They are among the best non-invasive ornamental grasses to grow in sunny locations. They thrive well in heavy clay soils so you don’t have to put in an extra effort to grow them. The arching clumps and showy flowers make this grass really eye catching. The foliage can grow up to 3 feet tall and it turns golden by late spring. Feather reed work great as tall ornamental grasses.
Japanese Silver Grass – Has large beautiful fluffy flowers that provide for a lot of interest. They grow in dense clumps and are robust in nature. Their upright growth makes them very suitable for bordering.
Porcupine Grass – Has stiff leaves, that look pointy and they are banded with yellow. They produce copper colored flowers that turn white after frost. It can well be consider a dwarf ornamental grass.
Morning light – Has narrow leaves that are tinted with white. It almost looks as if an inner light is radiating from the white midribs of the leaves. It’s flowers are popularly used for cutting and drying.
Northern Sea Oats – They do well in partial shade and give off attractive bamboo like foliage and flowers that start off green and turn grey by winter stay elegantly beautiful for several months. They are what you would call wild ornamental grasses.
Maiden Grass – A really tall ornamental grass, they might even look daunting when they take up their full growth. Full sun and average soil is all that these grasses need to grow. Huron Blush and Huron sentinel are the late summer flowering grasses of this variety. While the sentinel grows up to 6 feet in height with arching leaves and fawn colored seed heads, the “huron blush” grows up to 4 to 5 feet tall.
Fountain Grass – Fox trot and Red head are two excellent varieties of fountain grasses. Fox trot is easily the tallest fountain grass around and tend to grow up to 4 to 5 feet in height. It develops dark plumes in late summer. Red head blooms by mid-summer giving off purple-reddish buds that develop into purple plumes with reddish cast. They grow up to 3 to 4 feet in height and their foliage turns yellow by fall. Fox trots were consider wild ornamental grasses but now they are quite popular in landscapes.
Banana Boat – These grasses have wide leaves that have a banana-yellow color with green stripes. They grow up to 6 inches in height and they make for a great ground covers. They can be categorized as dwarf ornamental grasses.
Blue Lymegrass – These are cool season grasses and are not very tolerant to hot conditions. If you are looking for an ornamental blue grass this is the perfect choice for you, they have narrow blue green spikes as inflorescence (grass flowers) and a steel-blue foliage. They are definitely not among the non-invasive ornamental grasses because of their seeding habits. Another popular blue ornamental grass would be the blue fescue.
You can get ornamental grass in any size, texture or color that you desire, on top of it you can choose a grass according to the season as well as the type of soil your garden’s possesses. Of course there is the height factor to consider also. Find below a categorized listing of ornamental grasses based on these criteria.
Warm Season Grasses
- Pampas Grass
- Lemon Grass
- Amur Silver Grass
- Switch Grass
- Fountain Grass
Cool Season Grass
- Feather Reed Grass
- Tufted hair grass
- Blue oat grass
- Squirreltail grass
Grasses for sunny climates
- Pampas grass
- Ravenna grass
- Hare’s Tail grass
- Little bluestem
- Maire’s fescue
Grasses for shade
- Tufted hair grass
- Variegated hakone grass
- Japanese blood grass
- Frost grass
Grasses for wet soil
- Manna grass
- Feather reed grass
- Morning light
Grasses for dry soil
- Tufted hair grass
- Switch grass
- Indian grass
Caring for ornamental grasses
There are 5 aspects involved in care for ornamental grasses, they are – fertilizing, watering, weed control, winter protection and division.
The need for fertilizing ornamental grasses is relatively low. By keeping the levels of nitrogen content in the soil low you can prevent the foliage from getting too lanky and flopping over. One pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer to a 100 sq feet area of grass should be sufficient or in other terms, one quarter cup per plant should be enough.
When is the right time to apply fertilizers?
The best time is at the start of the growing season, in spring. If you apply some slow release fertilizer like osmocote at the start of the season, it should be sufficient to take care of the nutrient requirement of the grasses till summer. Be sure to water in deeply when you fertilize and do it on a cool day.
Water deeply during the first season of their growth, in spring. Deep watering ornamental grasses to depth of about 2 inches at the start would help them develop good rooting. Once the grasses are established they will have minimum water requirements, you would just need to supply water during the drought spells. If you don’t desire a faster growth rate you should reduce the supply of water. The watering requirements will also depend directly on factors like the soil quality, the grass species and the amount of heat in your region.
You might need to cultivate around the grass plants to control a weed infestation. Using a sharp garden hoe is perfect for this purpose. Tilling the soil well before planting would reduce the number of weeds you will need to contend with. Another useful tip would be to place a mulch around the grass to reduce the onset of weeds. You can use straw, cocoa shells or gravel, in some cases, for mulch. Another advantage of using a mulch is that it keeps the heavily reseeding grass types in check.
The good news is that you need to do nothing as a winter protection measure. The grasses should be left alone and be allowed to winter. They look quite beautiful with the de-colored foliage and it also helps insulate the crown of the grass from the harsh frost.
Come spring, you should cut the foliage to about four to six inches so that growth resumes from there.
You would need to divide the plant up if the center starts to die out. Use a shovel to split the grass at the center and divide it into two parts. You can grow these separated parts in different areas of the garden or at the same spot. Division is sometimes performed in spring before the growth resumes, you can also employ division in the summer when you notice the center dying out. It can also be done in the fall once the growing season is over. With experience you will realize that dividing is an important aspect of ornamental grass care.
You can employ ornamental grass dividing simply to replant them in a different location. Look at it this way, division allows you to get two plants of grass instead of one.
We hope you enjoy the experience of planting ornamental grasses in your garden, just be cautioned that you will get addicted to the grasses and you won’t be able to stop yourself from trying out new varieties ever growing season.