Your Guide To Ornamental Grasses
Ornamental Grasses are among the most versatile and useful plants in any garden. They add movement, texture and colour throughout the summer, and continue to offer interest and beauty throughout the fall and into winter. Diminutive and detailed, or giant and graceful, there’s a grass that’s perfect for a space in your garden.
Tiny Dancers – Dwarf And Compact Varieties
These grasses are perfect for the front of the border, small container accents, or used en masse for edging.
Blue Fescue grass is valued for its clumping habit, and stunning display of colourful, grey-blue foliage. In the garden, it has a rounded mound shape. Tan flower spikes appear in early summer, and persist as an interesting feature throughout the fall and into winter. Excellent for mass planting, edging, as a feature on walkways or paths, or in the rock garden.
At maturity, this grass grows to 12-14’″ high and wide. For healthiest growth and brightest colour, plant in areas that get full sun daily (that’s 6 or more hours.)
This grass is dramatic! Green at the base, the red tips become more intense over the summer and into fall. From September into frost, this grass blazes in the landscape as a flaming orange-red. It grows vigorously when planted in full sun to part shade. Japanese Blood Grass offers an attractive textural element, especially in a border or planted en masse to create drifts or meadows. In winter, foliage will remain if left untrimmed, with papery brown leaves and flower spikes to offer visual interest. ‘Red Baron’ grows 18″ high and 12″ wide.
Made For Shade – Shade-Tolerant Grasses
While most grasses prefer full sun, these beauties add colour and texture to shady spaces.
One of the most gorgeous varieties of ornamental grasses, and also one of the few that prefers shady sites. This interesting grass forms a low mound of arching stems, with cascading layers of narrow leaves striped with bright yellow and green. The graceful effect is similar to a dwarf bamboo, but without any invasive tendencies. Clumps are slow to grow, but eventually make a spectacular border edging or striking focal plant.
Hakonechloa combines beautifully with Hostas or ferns, since all three have similar growth requirements. This grass prefers moist soil, and enjoys a mulched surface planted in shady or partially shaded spaces. ‘Aureola’ grows to 18″ high and 20″ wide.
Hakonechloa ‘Allgold’ forms a mound of narrow golden-yellow leaves with a slightly more spiky habit compared to other forms.
Tiny green flowers are hidden among the leaves in summer. This variety is slow to grow, but eventually makes a wonderful edging plant. This grass matures to 8″ high and 16″ wide. For best and brightest gold colour, plant in partial shade or dappled sun.
Landscape Stars – Outstanding Garden Grasses
These mid-size grasses mature to 4-5’ tall and are favoured by landscape designers for their commanding presence and architectural appeal.
This might be the MOST popular grass for large landscapes and places where a tough, tidy, attractive plant is needed. ‘Karl Foerster’ is an upright selection of perennial Feather Reed Grass, with dark green leaves, and wheat coloured, stiff plumes in summer, which last into winter. One of the earliest ornamental grasses to emerge in spring, it grows quickly in the early part of the season and then remains steadfast into winter.
Left to stand through the snowy months, it stays somewhat upright and buff coloured for shape in the winter garden. This grass is well suited to mass planting, but can be used as a specimen as well. ‘Karl Foerster’ grows to 48″ tall and 24″ wide, and prefers full sun.
Miscanthus, also known as Japanese Silver Grass, offer a tall showy display of fall plumes that will remain attractive all winter. A useful specimen, Porcupine grass has horizontal yellow banding on the leaves. It works well in a border or for a large planting. Easy to maintain, simply cut back to 4″ in early spring. At maturity, ‘Strictus’ grows to be 5′ tall and 2.5′ wide. Plant in areas with full sun to part sun.
Homegrown Heroes – Panicum
The Panicum species are native to Ontario, and benefit local birds and pollinators AND your garden design.
Switch Grass is one of the easiest and most attractive ornamental grasses, with no tendency to spread or become troublesome. Panicum ‘Northwind’ forms a tall, narrow mound of olive-green leaves, bearing airy heads of tiny green flowers in late summer. In Fall, the change in colour is unique and striking, a brilliant golden yellow, fading to tan after hard frost. The upright habit is attractive in the garden all winter long, and provides protection and perch for birds. The fireworks-shaped flowers are good for use as a cut flower accent, used either fresh or dried. Trim down to the ground in early spring. Clumps can be divided and replanted in spring. Drought tolerant once established. Grows 4′ high and 2.5′ wide. Full Sun
This ornamental grass is most popular for it’s unusual rich burgundy fall colour. With wide ribbons of rich green leaves, burgundy streaks become more pronounced through the summer months. The pinkish flower plumes are tall and airy, and persist above the plant from August through early winter. Plant in full sun for best colour. This grass is drought tolerant once established, and grows in a wide range of soil types.