Ornamental Grasses... adding interest to your late summer & fall landscape!

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Some of the best late season, dramatic landscape scenes include ornamental grasses. 

Ornamental grasses can be used as borders, planted in small groupings, mass planted, or as a single specimen to add interest.

Most grasses are very adaptable to heat, drought and humidly.  They also grow in most soils.

There are both cool season and warm season ornamental grasses.  Cool or warm season refer to the time of the season they bloom.  Cool season start growing earlier in the spring and look stunning in early summer.  But, warm season grasses emerge later in the spring and add interest to the landscape as they flower in late summer to fall.

Ornamental grasses require little maintenance, needing attention only once per year.  Grasses do best if 1/3 of their dormant top is removed in early spring before new leaf blades emerge.

There are too many varieties of ornamental grasses to cover them all, but here are just a few favorites:

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Pink Muhly Grass – Pinkish-purple lacy plumes in the late summer to fall. As a warm season grass it is often one of the last to start to grow in the spring and one of the later bloomers.  Pink Muhly grows in full sun to partial shade and reaches 3-4’ in height.


Maiden Grass – Slender blades with creamy white to shimmering silver small plumes.  5-6’ tall.  Plant in partial to full sun.

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Blue Grama Grass – Native grass with golden summer flower on stiff stems.  Great for adding texture to the landscape.  Plant in full to partial shade.  Once established this grass does not require much water.  Grows about 3’ tall.


Little Bluestem – Blue to pink to burgundy hues in the late summer and rich copper tones in the fall.  Requires full sun.  A native grass that is loved by birds.  Grows 3-4’ tall.

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Switch Grass – An Oklahoma Proven perennial grass that grows in full sun to partial shade.  It has lacy sprays with a purplish cast in the fall.  There are several cultivars and great used as a single accent or in groups.  Reaches 6’.


Mexican Feather Grass – Another Oklahoma Proven grass with a feather like, graceful fine texture and silver flowers.  Best grown in a grouping in full sun to partial shade.  It prefers well drained soil and is very drought tolerant once established.  Different from most grasses in that it prefers to not be cut back in the spring. Only grows 2-3’.

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All Gold Japanese Forest Grass – Best planted in shade to partial shade, the light green color is a great accent to dark green shrubs in a shade garden.  Grows 1-2’ with a cascading habit.  Requires rich, loamy soil and does not do well in tight, clay soils. 

Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass – One of the most common cool season grasses with reddish bronze plumes in early to mid-summer.  Grows 4-6’ tall in full to partial sun. 

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Fountain Grass – Graceful arching shaped grass that will reach 5’ with tuffs of green seed heads on rich green grass blades.  Little Bunny, a dwarf variety, only reaches 1-2’.  Little Bunny is great for borders and smaller landscapes.  Grows in full to partial sun.


Zebra Grass – A great accent grass with bands of yellow on green foliage.  Grows 4-5’ tall in full to partial sun.

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Purple Fountain Grass – An annual ornamental grass (does not come back next season) with rich dark purple color.  It reaches 3-4’ tall and looks great planted as a single accent plant with yellow or pink summer annual flowers. 

Blue Fescue – A small silvery-blue grass that makes a great boarder or mass planting.  Prefers well drained soil in full sun.  Only reaches 12”.

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Dwarf Pampas Grass – Don’t let “dwarf” fool you, this grass reaches 4-5’.  One of the most common ornamental grasses with large, showy white plumes in late summer.  Giant Pampas Grass can reach 10’ and best used as a screen in large landscapes.

A couple of good sources for more information on ornamental grasses: growbeautifully.monrovia.com & oklahomaproven.org!

What are your favorite ornamental grasses? 

We would enjoy hearing your success stories.

Lorne Hall

Hall | Stewart Lawn & Landscape