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Ornamental Grasses bring Drama to your Garden Design

Updated on March 29, 2017

Love your Flower Gardens? Try adding Ornamental Grasses!

Although I love my flowers, I love adding different styles of Ornamental grass to my garden beds for an extra boost to the natural beauty. Many are predominately green which is a wonderful backdrop to colorful flower blooms. Many are white or light colored which makes other color pop. One of my favorite features is that most grasses offer a rustling sound and movement in the garden with the summer breeze. Many continue to make sound during the winter, too.

Below I have included the plants I have designed into my own garden beds.

Yes, just 3...

so far.

Image Credit: by Greg's Landscaping via Creative Commons License.

All other photos were taken by me.

Before we start... Do you have Grasses in your Garden?

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My First Experience with... Ribbon Grass - It filled a Dog's need... sort of.

Rascal the Lab near his Grassy patch
Rascal the Lab near his Grassy patch

I was hoping to train Rascal to use that grass, instead of the grass in which the grandkids run around on. That was a failed attempt due to lack of consistent training, but I love the look of the green and white "grass garden".

Strawberries & Cream Ribbon Grass grows quickly, with a spreading and shallow root system. Easy to grow and transplant, it will grow best in sunny to part shade, but will still in succeed in shade only conditions, too.

Planting guidelines say this plant loves moist and wet conditions, and I do suggest watering well until established, but I have had great success with the very dry, and never watered, garden bed shown above.

Variegated Ribbon Grass - Phalaris arundinacea - 4" Pot
Variegated Ribbon Grass - Phalaris arundinacea - 4" Pot

Bare root and potted plants ordered online almost always look near death. The brown and wilted grassy reeds will not be rejuvenated, but new growth is prompted from the root system. Within 2 weeks of recommended care and watering, these plants will have grown at least 6 inches high. One consideration before adding this plant into your garden...These grasses do spread so unless you are committed to digging them out often, do keep away from formal garden designs. One option is to use patio block to contain the spreading nature of Ribbon Grasses. Since the root system is so shallow, this is more than enough of a barrier to keep it growing where you like.


Adding Ornamental Grasses to your Garden

One word of caution...

Make sure to make yourself aware if the growing habit of the Grasses you choose.

Some are creeping like the Ribbon Grass and will take over an area in just a few years, if not sooner. To spread faster, dig up small rooted sections in well populated areas and plant in less dense areas.

Some will grow in Shrub like mounds like the Maiden Grass and will become quite wide. After trimned down for the season, cut in half or quarters, dig down and lift rootball, and transfer to another area of your garden.

Did you know...?

Most Grasses in the Garden can be left to winter over?

When the flowers and plants in the garden start to fade and wither in the cold temperatures, many grasses will keep their form well into the cold season.

Many perennial grass plants only need cutting back prior to early spring regrowth.

The next 2 selections are examples show examples of winter appearance. :)

My Pony Tail Grass - This is my favorite small sized ornamental grass

My Winter Pony Tail Grass
My Winter Pony Tail Grass

This miniature grass is so relaxing to watch as it sways in the smallest of breezes. The light as air fronds go from a rich green grass, then the addition of white plumes, eventually changing to a red-tinged color.

This is one of the grasses that looks glorious in the winter months. The fronds dissipate so the grass blades are left to turn to a golden color that move during the entire season.... at least when not covered by a foot of snow.

This is my second Pony Tail plant I've had. The first did not survive to rebloom for the next spring, so I considered it an annual, as does my local garden store. Surprise, surprise! This one lived through to bloom again during the second season. I'm waiting to see what happens this year. If it doesn't sprout this spring, I'll just plant another since I've decided this grass is now a necessity in my gardenscape design.

My Maiden Grass - Since I wrote this at very early spring, I didn't have a picture during the growing season... at first.

Even though this newly planted and young plant was nearly flattened by a foot of snow, twice during its first year's winter, it was still mostly upright and looked a lot better than some of the other remnants in the garden beds. I loved how the long flowered and golden fronds still waved in the breeze. A summer view is added below.

Smaller version, and more colorful, of the grass above

Adagio Dwarf Maiden Grass (miscanthus) - Live Plant - Trade Gallon Pot
Adagio Dwarf Maiden Grass (miscanthus) - Live Plant - Trade Gallon Pot

An upright grass with a mature height if 4-5 feet, this will spread very slowly to increase in width over years. Likes full sun for optimal growth, but also enjoys part sun in dry areas. Dramatic focal point in your garden design during summer, fall, and even dormant in winter, and early spring. Easy maintenance as it only requires cutting back in early spring to allow for new growth. Makes a wonderful backdrop or natural fence-line.


Mid-summer view of Maiden Grass

More Glorious Grass... The color is phenominal.

3 Pink Muhly Grass in 2.5 Inch Containers (3 Pots of Plants) by Daylily Nursery
3 Pink Muhly Grass in 2.5 Inch Containers (3 Pots of Plants) by Daylily Nursery

I love the pink color this type of grass can add to a landscape design. I did pick up 2 of these at the end if last season. I can't wait to see what drama these will impart to my garden.


Well Established, and Large enough to Weather the Winter

Maiden Grass in the very Early Spring before Cutting Down to Make Room for the new Growth
Maiden Grass in the very Early Spring before Cutting Down to Make Room for the new Growth

And a Spring trim makes room for Summer Grass

Oh, and see the grass in the forefront?  That's my last Ponytail grass I planted.  It's now lasted 3 growing season, but it's been sneaky.  I took 3 shoots that creeper away from the original planting,  and replanted them together.  Ah-ha!
Oh, and see the grass in the forefront? That's my last Ponytail grass I planted. It's now lasted 3 growing season, but it's been sneaky. I took 3 shoots that creeper away from the original planting, and replanted them together. Ah-ha!

Next up...

Zebra Grass!

I planted it last summer.

Should make a great showing this year. I really wish I took a photo before I trimmed it. Still small, but graced with beautiful curly golden fronds.

Please sign my Ornamental Plant Guest Book - Do you any experience with Landscape Grasses? What's your favorite?

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    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 

      5 years ago from United Kingdom

      I love ornamental grass, especially mixed in with tall spikey plants like verbena, erigeron, and so forth. But whenever I grow them myself (which I can't resist doing from time to time), they always end up seeding themselves like mad, and taking over large areas

    • SoyCandleLover profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Henrietta, New York

      @Karamerica: Glad to hear it. We don't have unusual grasses in our local big box nurseries, but looking forward to a visit with a dedicated nursery to see what they might have. If they don't stock the red grasses, I plan to do a little shopping online. :)

    • SoyCandleLover profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Henrietta, New York

      @Elyn MacInnis: I just happened to be online when this message came through. If it's like most clump grasses, it's as easy as taking a shovel and cutting it in half. Lifting with shovel, carefully remove it, trying to get all the roots free, and replant elsewhere. Or give it to me, um, someone else, to enjoy. )

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 

      5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      I have some grass in the back yard - lovely but it gets bigger and bigger and is very hard to contain. I love the way it looks, but now it is threatening my lilac bushes! any tips for keeping them under control??

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Thanks for all the info on these grasses. I haven't seen those bright colored ones in our local nurseries unfortunately. But I am motivated to start planting.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      @laurenrich: Wow, lots of grasses I did not know about. I tend to grow just the ones I find in the nurseries so it is refreshing to be exposed to so many other cool varieties. I'm in Florida and I just cut a bunch of my grasses back a few weeks ago for the new season. They are already coming up with healthy new shoots everywhere.

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 

      5 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      Our yard is mainly field grass of the variety fed to horses, but there a couple of flower beds with the longer ornamental grasses too. I must confess to not knowing what they are as we inherited them.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 

      5 years ago from USA

      Ornamental grass breaks up the look of an ordinary flower bed. I really enjoy it.

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 

      5 years ago from La Verne, CA

      I have a couple of ornamental grasses in my yard, as well. The blue fescue is my favorite so far because of the bright blue next to green brings lots of contrast. It seeds itself and the patch I have has been going fine for about twenty five years.

    • Vikk Simmons profile image

      'Vikk Simmons 

      5 years ago from Houston

      Ornamental grass is used a lot here in the Houston area. I've thought about it in the past but never followed through. Enjoyed my visit.

    • RitaAnne profile image


      5 years ago

      I would love to a yard with grass and flower garden some day! :)

    • mrdata profile image


      5 years ago

      Congrats for your LOTD! Your lens is great :) I have several kinds of ornamental grasses in my garden and love them. Thanks for sharing your valuable ideas with us!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      This is an awesome lens. I enjoy having ornamental grass in my yard. Thanks


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