ORNAMENTAL GRASSES – We all love color, height and movement in our yards. Ornamental grasses, depending on the variety can provide all three. Low maintenance and propagation by division make these plants ideal for many gardeners. Most grasses prefer a sunny location but there are a few which will do well in shady areas as well as several that work great around a garden pond. In spring, they need to be cut down to a height of 4-6 inches when you begin to see new growth. This timing allows them to be a dramatic display through the winter when much of the garden’s foliage has gone.
Zebra grass grows up to an amazing 7 ft. tall and is sturdy enough to support the weight of small climbing vines like sweet pea or dancing dolphin. The slender green leaves are vertically striped with yellow and in autumn will produce silvery white plumes. They have compact growth and are not picky about soil conditions. In areas of snow they stand majestically, withstanding both wind and wet snow without little to no damage.
Variegated leaf grass is slightly shorter, coming in at 4 ft. tall when mature. They flower late in summer with a rust color tassel These are vigorous growers spreading by rhizomes which gives them the opportunity to become invasive very quickly. Great for containers, but if you would like to use in the garden they can be corralled with landscape edging and they make a beautiful border plant for walkways.
Hairy leaf grass stands at 3-4 ft and has a light airy look and feel. With a dense, compact base they begin to flower mid-summer with a display of wispy light colored wands. Division should be done every 3 years.
Fountain grasses come with green slender leaves and in autumn the leaves turn maroon with a purple colored plume. Resistant to most insects and drought tolerant this is a colorful and hardy grass with a maximum height of 4 ft. Many fountain grasses are annuals for most areas but can be dug up and over-wintered in the home and then re-planted after the last frost.
I started out with 3 small zebra grass plants 7 years ago and fell in love with the beauty they provided. I planted them close together and since then they have been divided and placed in several other areas of my yard as well as given as gifts. Friends and family also are always asking for a starter group for their own yards and often I receive a plant as trade. I look for grasses every year and try to add a different kind every so often. Because my yard has very few “full-sun” space many of my grasses are in “part-sun” planting areas. This has not affected their beauty but it has made them slightly smaller in size.
Next time you are at your local nursery, walk around and check out the selection of grasses available for your area. You may just go home with a few.