Ornamental Grasses Add Beauty and Texture - Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

Ornamental Grasses Add Beauty and Texture

Although many gardeners think of grass as that plant that has to mowed every week, there are many species of grass that rival any garden flower for beauty and grace. Many ornamental grasses have attractive form, foliage, flowers and color-or even all of the above. Grasses can be used as ground covers (that do not have to be mowed), specimen plants, hedges, perennial borders, naturalized plantings and even rock garden plants.

Perennial grasses that are hardy in the Midwest include the following.

Amur silver grass, also known as silver banner grass, (Miscanthus sacchariflorus), is grown for its silvery-white plumes borne in late summer and persisting into the winter.

Maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis), grown for its reddish-pink plumes that appear in October, is often incorrectly sold as pampas grass. There are numerous cultivars in the trade, including ‘Gracillimus,’ ‘Purpurascens,’ ‘Morning Light’ and ‘Variegatus.’

Switch grass (Panicum virgatum) is a native prairie grass that bears dark red or purple flowers in late summer. The flowers fade to beige with age, but remain upright and can provide cover for wildlife.

Fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) does best as a landscape specimen or border plant. Its coppery tan or reddish flowers are attractive in late summer, but shatter easily when used for dried arrangements.

Dwarf blue Fescue (Festuca ovina ‘Glauca’) is prized for its silvery-blue foliage that is retained year-round. Preferring sandy, well-drained soils, it is well adapted to rock gardens as well as a maintenance-free ground cover.

Purple moor grass Molinia caerulea ‘Variegata’ is a short grass grown for its yellow-green striped foliage and yellow-and-green or purple flowers in summer. Its graceful, arching habit makes the plant attractive as a specimen, border plant or ground cover.

Variegated bulbous oat grass (Arrhenatherum elatius bulbosum ‘Variegatum’) is a cool-season grass grown for its white-and bluish-green striped foliage. The plants can be semi-evergreen in warmer areas of the Midwest.

There are quite a few native grasses that are attractive in the garden. Purdue University has a publication called “Ornamental Grasses for Indiana Landscapes,” HO-219-W, available online at <www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs.html>.


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