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 additions 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!

Ornamental Grass In The Wind

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

1. Wild Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)

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. Heavy Metal Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum 'Heavy Metal')

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

3. Shenandoah Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah')

Something about 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

Mauve Grass

4. Purple Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)

It’s easy to see how Purple Muhly Grass, sometimes referred to as “cotton candy grass” (due to its pinky purple cotton-like blooms), stands out in a garden. Preferring full sun to part shade, this grass can thrive in a wide range of soils and becomes more drought-tolerant once it is established. 

When planted in mass, this grass can create a lush field of far-reaching plumes of mauve. It works great in a container as well, if you are looking for a purplish-pink “thriller” to add to your planters. As an added bonus, it is also deer-resistant!

Grow Zones: 6-10

5. Standing Ovation Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium 'Standing Ovation' )

Give it up for 2022 Perennial Of The Year, Standing Ovation Little Bluestem! It has gorgeous blue foliage from spring through summer and then puts on a show of fall colors afterward.

With red and orange fall foliage and incredible durability, this grass is certainly something to applaud. Due to this sturdy plant maintaining 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

6. Tufted Hairgrass (Deschampsia cespitosa)

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. Common Rush (Juncus effusus)

Common Rush is anything but common, this grass adds loads of texture to a garden. Not only is it great for texture, but it also adds great color to a landscape with its summer golden yellow blooms standing out amongst its rich green foliage.

If you are looking for a grass for wetland areas of your landscape, then this is the grass for you. Common Rush prefers moist soil, making it also great for containers and even as a houseplant! While this grass can tolerate some shade, it prefers full sun. On the shorter side of ornamental grasses, Common Rush will reach heights between 2-4’, making it perfect for both inside and outside of the house!

Grow Zones: 4-10

8. Little Zebra Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Little Zebra')

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 bands that reach 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

Ornamental Grass In A Garden Bed

9. Cassian Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Cassian')

If you’re hoping to add some movement to your garden, Cassian Fountain Grass, named after German horticulturist, Cassian Schmidt, is an outstanding 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

10. Dwarf Hameln Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hameln')

Last, but definitely not least, is Dwarf Hameln Fountain Grass! This popular ornamental grass offers interest in the landscape all year long. Enjoy greenery in the spring, white blooms from summer through fall, and golden foliage in the winter. It looks especially lovely in the winter when it has sparkling snow a top of its warm foliage.

Only reaching heights of 2-3’ tall, this short grass works exceptionally well in both containers and garden beds. When planting, use well-draining soil and place in a full sun area.

Grow Zones: 5-9

Ornamental Grasses At Patuxent Nursery

Whether you are looking for winter interest, wetland, native grasses, or a combination of them all, we have what you need! Stop by to check out our full selection today and speak with our plant experts to see which grasses will work best for your home.

Ornamental Grasses

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