Ornamental Grass

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Lawn & Garden

Ornamental grasses have been an important part of dried flower arrangements and winter bouquets for a long time. Nowadays, they are increasingly being used for ornamental purposes in landscaping. There are approximately 10,000 species of grasses, most of which are perennial, including the bamboos. While about 150 different ornamental grasses are used in gardens, more are being introduced for this purpose all the time. Annual varieties are especially popular and widely grown for both garden decoration and long-lasting enjoyment at home.

Annuals Image Gallery

Description of Ornamental Grasses:

  • Cloud grass (Agrostis nebulosa) from Spain grows up to 15 inches tall and is mainly cultivated for its airy flower heads, which are much larger than its sparse foliage. The flower heads dry well but are not suitable for dyeing.
  • Wild oats (Avena sterilis) from the Mediterranean are now naturalized in the United States. They are favored by flower arrangers and are also a beautiful addition to gardens, particularly when light strikes from behind, highlighting the hanging spikelets. They grow up to 18 inches tall.
  • Quaking grass (Briza maxima) from the Mediterranean was one of the first grasses grown for its ornamental value. The loose flower heads shake at the slightest breeze. They grow to less than 1 foot tall.
  • Job’s tears (Coix Lacryma-Jobi) from the tropics have large, tear-shaped grains that are used for making bead necklaces and other ornaments and crafts. As garden plants, they are grown for their seeds. They grow up to 3 feet tall.
  • Golden top (Lamarkia aurea), another Mediterranean import, has erect, silky plumes on one side of the stalk like a toothbrush. The flower heads range from whitish to yellow and tones of purple. It grows up to 1 foot high, and clumps are effective in the front of a border. It is great for drying.
  • Wheat grass (Triticum aestivum) grows up to 3 feet tall and is topped with grains evenly spiraled around the stem. A cereal grain in real life (but not the common one we know), wheat grass is highly valued by floral arrangers.

Uses for Ornamental Grasses:

Ornamental grasses are essential for many harvest arrangements, door hangings, and other crafts. The tall spiky types add line, and the feathery, soft heads of others provide a graceful note to arrangements. In the garden, plant grasses in clumps to enhance their impact. Short varieties gracefully line the front of the border. Taller ones, unless their foliage is especially attractive, should be positioned in the middle of the border so that the flower heads can be admired starting in July. Varieties grown only for flower arrangements can be planted in the cutting garden. Ornamental grasses are also becoming popular in container gardens, either alone or combined with flowers. In northern climates, many annual grass varieties remain attractive in the garden until heavy snow covers them.

Want More Gardening Information? Try:

  • Annual Flowers
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  • Perennial Flowers


1. What is ornamental grass?

Ornamental grass refers to any species of grass that is cultivated for its aesthetic value rather than for its agricultural or functional purposes. These grasses are often used in landscaping and gardening to add texture, color, and movement to outdoor spaces. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors and can be either deciduous or evergreen.

2. What are some popular types of ornamental grass?

Some popular types of ornamental grass include fountain grass, blue fescue, pampas grass, maiden grass, and switchgrass. Fountain grass has soft, fluffy flowers that look like foxtails, while blue fescue has striking blue-gray foliage. Pampas grass is known for its tall, feathery plumes, and maiden grass has graceful arching leaves. Switchgrass is a native grass that is excellent for adding texture and movement to a garden.

3. How do you care for ornamental grass?

Ornamental grass is generally easy to care for. Most varieties prefer full sun and well-drained soil. They typically do not require much water or fertilizer and can usually be left unpruned in the winter. However, some types of grass may benefit from a light pruning in late winter or early spring to remove any dead or damaged foliage.

4. Can you grow ornamental grass in containers?

Yes, ornamental grass can be grown in containers, but it is important to choose a variety that is appropriate for the size of the container. Smaller grasses like blue fescue or Japanese forest grass are better suited for containers, while larger grasses like pampas grass may require a larger pot. It is also important to make sure the container has good drainage and to water the grass regularly.

5. How do you use ornamental grass in landscaping?

Ornamental grass can be used in a variety of ways in landscaping. It can be used as a border or edging plant, as a backdrop for other plants, or as a focal point in a garden. Grasses with tall plumes, like pampas grass, can be used to create a dramatic effect, while shorter grasses, like blue fescue, can be used to add texture and color to a garden bed.

6. Are there any downsides to planting ornamental grass?

One potential downside of planting ornamental grass is that some varieties can be invasive and may spread quickly if not kept in check. It is important to choose clumping varieties rather than spreading varieties and to keep an eye on the grass to make sure it is not spreading too quickly. Additionally, some types of grass may be allergenic and can cause respiratory problems for some people.

7. Can ornamental grass be used as a privacy screen?

Yes, some types of ornamental grass can be used as a privacy screen. Tall varieties like pampas grass or maiden grass can be planted in rows to create a natural fence. However, it is important to make sure the grass is not blocking any views or creating a safety hazard. It is also important to make sure the grass is not invading any nearby areas or causing any damage to nearby structures.

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