A Sunday Question: What are the Best Ornamental Grasses in Your Garden?

A Sunday Question: What are the Best Ornamental Grasses in Your Garden?

Here’s another question for another Sunday! What are the best ornamental grasses in your garden? Ornamental grasses are great plants to use whether as a background or as a feature plant. There are all kinds of ornamental grasses to choose from; some are native and some exotic. In our garden we only have two varieties but I hope to add more eventually. The two we have are Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’ (a variegated miscanthus) and Karl Foerster ‘Feather Reed Grass’ (Calamagrostis x acutiflora).

The striped pattern on the miscanthus makes it very interesting in the garden as a foliage plant. Miscanthus sinensis actually comes from China. Generally anything that has sinensis in its botanical name comes from China. I have two clumps of it in our Bird Bath Garden (Bird Bath Garden Layout).

The Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass has been a little on the disappointing side. It is a great grass to add into any garden but I divided it shortly after purchasing it last fall and it is still recovering. It will do fine eventually but for now the three clumps are a bit on the small side. Time will heal all wounds and next year they should be pumped up and ready to grow! I have it in our rain garden mixed together with rudbeckia and zinnias. Feather reed grass would look great with coneflowers and other wildflowers, which coincidentally are in the rain garden also!

There’s a list of grasses I would love to have growing in my garden but at the top of my list is Muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris). I actually like the pink variety of it better than the white mainly for the color interest, but both would add some value to a garden. Muhly grass is a native grass found from Texas on northward to Massachussets that grows to about 3 feet tall.

What ornamental grasses to you have in your garden? And/or what ornamental grasses do you want to add to your garden?


Dave has written GrowingTheHomeGarden.com since 2007. He gardens on an acre and a half where he raises his 4 children. He enjoys growing vegetables, herbs, and propagating plants. Dave has a side business growing and selling heirloom vegetables and herb plants through Blue Shed Gardens and works as a real estate agent in Spring Hill, TN.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. I have the zebra grass and like it but it really does need lots of sun. A drawback here. One grass that does well in the shade is Adagio miscanthus sinensis and I LOVE this stuff. It looks like Morning light but maybe smaller and is never picky on growing conditions. I also have Mexican feather grass and this stuff is great too. I think I would like some more though and might have to try Karl Forester. It gets good reviews.

  2. Hi Dave, excellent question and you are for sure on the right track with your list, except the zebra grass, there are so many better ones, free or not. Karl is probably my fave for his four seasons of beauty, he doesn’t flop at all here. I have divided him down to one blade each to have a good spread, the way he looks best. After a couple of years the stand is outstanding! I do have the pink muhly and have divided it in the same way from one plant from Lowe’s years ago. But while unmatchable during it’s bloom, the rest of the time it is ho hum. Another fave of mine is the Japanese blood grass, is disappears during winter but is a knockout during the growing season. Blue fescue is another short one that gives that luscious blue color all year. New this year is panicum ‘Heavy Metal’. I am liking it alot. Hi to your family!

  3. Hi Dave! I like your Zebra grass, is it invasive? I plant the Purple Fountain grass in my garden. I like the deep burgundy foliage & purplish-pink plumes. It's an annual which is fine with me.

  4. I have a large clump of Zebra grass near the street in the hot sun and it is tidy and performs well with no effort other than cutting it back in the spring before new growth emerges. On a smaller scale, I also have a few clumps of blue fescue. I like the color contrast.

  5. Hi Dave,
    A year ago I planted 8 OG's in 07.
    I love my Morning Light Miscanthus
    best. Since it is in only it's second
    season, it hasn't really matured yet.
    [I am z 5b KS]

    Also, the rule of thumb I have
    read is First year they sleep, second
    year they creep & Third year they
    leap. So, I am hoping by next
    year to really have a nice show.

    Planted in 07:
    Morning Light Miscanthus [3]
    Karl Forester grass [2]
    Pink muhley [1]-Died.
    Zebra grass [1] which is looking
    really good this year. Bought one
    more at the end of the season
    at W-M which is still in the pot.

    z 5b KS

  6. We’ve grown both Fiber Optic grass and Curly grass – both annuals for us. They both have such interesting form for our annual bed.

  7. Dave,

    Great question! You have the sun for most grasses. I would recommend a native grass Little Bluestem, The Blues…it is wonderful, a nice blue green that would compliment Russian Sage and the conefloweres you have planted. Now that I have moved the soaker hose mine is fine! It prefers not to have constant wet roots!

  8. Hi Dave — I have been reading your blog for several weeks now and thought I would let you know about my favorite grass. I planted a revenna grass eight years ago in my Myrtle Beach area garden and it is the highlight of my summer garden. It has grown rounder every year but I have the room so I’ve just let it go. The summer plumes which peak in August rise to 12 feet and sparkle in the sunlight. They are not as dense as pampas grass so they appear very light and airy. The leaves have a light strip down the middle and bend over forming a fountain type appearance and they are not nearly as deadly as those of pampas grass. In the fall when the seeds ripen on the plumes the birds sit and eat and cause the branches to bounce up and down — a sight to see especially when two land on one branch and it almost touches the ground and then bounces right back up when they fly off. This grass does not self sow in my garden although I did get one new plant from it which is also doing very well. I cut the plumes off in late fall when they are looking ragged but I leave the golden brown leaves all winter because they are a highlight of my winter garden. I have several other grasses in my yard — they are great fillers and backdrops for me. My zebra grass is growing in the shade of two oak trees and is doing very well. I don’t get many plumes but the striping is very distinct. My favorite annual grass is the purple fountain grass — great in planters and the garden itself. Enjoy your blog. My father, husband and I built a paver patio similar to yours several years ago. We did the rounded edges also — it was a lot more work but certainly adds to its beauty. Elaine

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