Our Landscape Work

Sign up for tips, news, and deals

Our monthly newsletter includes special subscriber-only promotions not available anywhere else.

Monthly Newsletter Signup

Previous Issues

Able Monthly Newsletter

Ornamental Grasses

Posted by


Lacking the brightly colored flowers of the familiar, broad leaved flora of our borders, grasses are grown for their structure, for the subtleties of their shape, form, and texture, for the translucency of their flowers and seed heads, and for the movement they bring into a garden. They stir with the slightest breath of air, toss in every storm, and resume their serenity once the wind has gone. Theirs is a lasting beauty that lingers across the seasons…” The Plant Finders Guide to Ornamental Grasses by Roger Grounds.

One of the elements of modern gardening is the use of ornamental grasses. Garden centers and landscapers have embraced this phenomenon with enthusiasm while offering the gardener more choices each year.   But as is the case with any new fashion, just because we embrace it, does not mean we know how to make the best use of it. Let’s look at the use of grasses in the landscape to see how we can best use them for all their worth. First of all, there is a plethora of new species and cultivars from which to choose.  As is the case with all landscaping and gardening, we should research to make sure we are putting the right plant in the right place. Ask yourself these questions.   What is my location reality? Do I have shade, sun, or partial shade/sun? Is it a dry or moist location? Is the site irrigated? How much control do I have over the watering? What is the soil condition?   Can I improve it if need be? What size plants do I ultimately need for the space? Remember to consider the mature size of the plant. Do you want to create a grassery or just use grasses as accent plants? Once you have answers to these questions you are ready to start selecting the types of grass you want for your garden. Once you plant your grass plants they will adapt fairly quickly. You should see most of them reach maturity and flower by the end of the second season. Remember grasses are four season plants because they give a garden structure and interest in the autumn and winter. Therefore, don’t cut them back until spring. Grass flowers with snow or ice on them add a beautiful focal point in the winter garden.   The dried stems and flowers add a sense of whimsy to the seriousness of the winter landscape. So get out there and try some ornamental grasses in your garden and see what all the talk is about.  A few of my favorites include, Maiden Grass, Fountain Grass, Carex Grass, Muhly Grass, Giant Reed Grass, Pampas Grass, Monkey Grass (bunching type), Mondo Grass, and Blue Fescue Grass.  Within these groups there are many differ cultivars from which to choose.


Rick Rice 

Ornamental Grasses Ornamental Grasses Ornamental Grasses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *