Our Top Ten Favorite Ornamental Grasses

Why Ornamental Grasses?

When we think of gardens, the first thing that comes to mind might be flowers, vegetables, or maybe even shrubs. While these are staples in any garden, ornamental grasses are the low-maintenance addition that add texture, dimension, movement, and color to your landscape. Along with their aesthetic value, they make great filler plants for unwanted gaps and empty spaces. These underrated plants come in many varieties and even change color with the seasons, particularly in late summer and early autumn. As summer comes to an end and we begin our move into fall, it is now time to incorporate these wispy and whimsical ornamental grasses into your garden!

Here's a list of our top ten favorite ornamental grasses:

1. Wild Northern Sea Oats

A plant pulled straight out of a fairy tale, Wild Northern Sea Oats are the perfect addition to any woodland garden. With rich foliage and drooping seed heads, which act as a source of food for birds, this plant succeeds in giving a cozy cottage-like feel to your space. Unlike most ornamental grasses, this plant is shade tolerant, which means it will thrive in many conditions, even wet and cold environments! Growing 2-3 feet tall, Wild Northern Sea Oats’ foliage shifts into a nice copper shade in the fall, making it the perfect garden accent.

Grow Zones: 3-8

2. Cassian Fountain Grass

If you’re hoping to add some movement to your garden, Cassian Fountain Grass, named after German horticulturist, Cassian Schmidt, is a great option. Growing around 2-3 feet tall, this plant’s large brush-like plumage is not only easy breezy, but also light catching, making it a delightful addition to your garden. With pink flowers in the summer and bronze foliage in the fall, Cassian Fountain Grass not only offers graceful movement, but also multi-seasonal color!

Grow Zones: 5-9

Cassian Fountain Grass

3. Heavy Metal Switchgrass

Rock out with Heavy Metal Switchgrass. Named for its sturdy vertical shape and metallic blue-gray coloring, this hardy grass grows to be about 3 feet tall. While Heavy Metal Switchgrass gives off a stiff first impression, it shows its softer side in fall when its foliage turns to a soft golden-honey shade. This plant prefers full sun and, especially if you’re going for a more metallic look, likes to be kept on the drier side.

Grow Zones: 4-9

4. Little Zebra Maiden Grass

Whether it’s sweaters, animals, or even plants, stripes are always in style! True to the animal it is named after, Little Zebra Maiden Grass has striking horizontally striped green and yellow foliage reaching 3-4 feet at maturity. In the summer, this funky plant grows red flowers which tower over the plant, adding even more dimension and fun. In the fall, Little Zebra Maiden Grass shows off its yellow foliage, creating a year-round spectacle.

Grow Zones: 5-9

5. Purple Love Grass

It’s easy to see how Purple Love Grass earned its name (who doesn’t love purple?). Preferring warmer seasons and full sun, this grass can thrive in both soil and sand, making it a great option for drier environments. When planted in mass, this grass can create a lush field of far-reaching purple. While it maintains its iconic purple coloring in summer, its foliage transitions to a burgundy in the fall. So, if you’re looking for unbeatable color throughout the year, Purple Love Grass might be the one for you!

Grow Zones: 5-9

6. Tufted Hair Grass

If your goal is to fill the gaps and empty spaces in your garden, Tufted Hair Grass offers fine, dense mounds that are also suitable for bordering flower beds and other areas you’d like to highlight. Maturing to be 3 feet tall, this versatile grass can be used to accentuate or complement accompanying plants and flowers or be planted on its own for a simple statement.

Grow Zones: 4-8

7. Chameleon Little Bluestem

The Chameleon Little Bluestem is perhaps the most dramatic ornamental grass of this bunch. As hinted in its name, this plant not only has white and green vertical stripes, but also shifts into a fierce pink and purple foliage come fall! Growing to be about 2 feet, the dynamic Chameleon Little Bluestem is the perfect way to add a bit of ever-changing excitement to your garden.

Grow Zones: 3-9

Chameleon Little Bluestem

8. Silver Arrow Variegated Maiden grass

While all ornamental grasses are known for their ability to withstand various environments, Silver Arrow Variegated Maiden Grass is specifically known for its ability to survive in the city. Growing to a solid 5-6 feet, this plant is often also used as an option for screening in an outdoor area. With its burgundy stems and butter-yellow foliage in the fall, this plant wins our award for being both practical and pleasing to the eye—two for one!

Grow Zones: 4-9

9. Red Shenandoah Switchgrass

Something about Red Shenandoah Switchgrass’s rich wine color makes it a strong contender to fulfill your fall landscaping needs. While its color alone is certainly enough to grab your attention, it is also deer-resistant, which means you won’t have to worry about any unwanted guests feasting on your garden.

Grow Zones: 4-9

Red Shanendoah Switchgrass

10. Standing Ovation Little Bluestem

What better way to end this list than with Standing Ovation Little Bluestem? With red and orange fall foliage and incredible durability, this grass is certainly something to applaud. Because this sturdy plant maintains its vertical shape even under harsh conditions, it is the perfect option for someone who lives in a rainy or windy climate but would still like to add some texture to their garden area.

Grow Zones: 3-8

Standing Ovation Little Bluestem

Let’s give a big round of applause for all of our ornamental grasses here at Patuxent Nursery! Be sure to check out our weekly special and come visit the nursery today to see our wide selection.

Ornamental Grasses