Add Beauty With Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses offer a lot of desirable features to the landscape. Their strong vertical lines add energy. When their foliage and inflorescence (this is what their flowers are called) blow in the wind they offer movement in the garden. Most varieties have colorful foliage, some even with interesting striping. One of the best parts about ornamental grasses is that they require very little maintenance.

Ornamental grasses come in a wide swath of colors and sizes. There are varieties with yellow, blue, pink and, of course, green foliage. Sizes can range from 1” all the way up to 8’. Here are a few of our favorites:

Site Selection

Most ornamental grass species require full sun but there are a few exceptions. Carex morrowii (Japanese Grass Sedge), Carex dolichostachya ‘Kaga-Nishiki’ (Gold Fountains Sedge), Carex platyphylla (Silver Sedge) and Hakonechloa macra (Japanese Forest Grass) are a few species that require partial shade to full shade.

Ornamental grasses prefer sites that are well drained. Some varieties can tolerate wet soils. These include Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ (Feather Reed Grass), Carex morrowii ‘Ice Dance’ (Ice Dance Japanese Sedge) and Carex platyphylla (Silver Sedge).

Planting Ornamental Grasses

Like all garden plants, soil preparation is key to long term success. Do not plant ornamental grasses too deep or they will rot out. It is best to plant the ornamental grasses slightly higher than the surrounding ground. Mix composted organic matter with the existing soil at a ratio roughly 1:3. Apply a 2”-3” layer of mulch around the new plants.

On-Going Care For Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses require very little on going care. The only effort that may be required during the growing season is to prune them a little if they are growing beyond the space they were intended to fill. Even then, the pruning may be only to keep them from overtaking other plants or a walkway.

Towards the end of the season it may be desirable to tie the plants up with twine so they do not flop over too much.

As winter nears, some people like to cut the grasses back to a couple of inches above the ground. Others like they look in the winter and wait until they are beaten up too much by wind or snow, or just cut them back prior to spring.


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