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Ornamental Grasses for Every Garden

There was a time when people thought plants needed to have showy flowers to be valued in a landscape. No more! Thankfully, ornamental grasses are taking their rightful place in the garden. They’re increasingly appreciated for their graceful form, their gentle movement with the slightest breeze, and their winter interest when other shrubs and perennials take a timeout for the winter.

Richard, Tagawa’s Perennial Supervisor, firmly believes that ornamental grasses belong in every garden, no matter the landscape style or other plant choices. As my inner reporter came out, I asked him which grasses are his favorites. I’m happy to relay some of his choices here.

Morning Light Maiden Grass

The seedheads of Morning Light maiden grass are some of my personal favorites, so I was pleased when Richard suggested this variety.

Morning Light has narrow green leaves with distinctive white edges that create an upright and gently cascading silhouette. Coppery plumes rise above the foliage in the fall and give way to elegant creamy white seedheads as seen in the picture at the top of this blog. I think they’re real show stoppers!

Morning Light can grow to be four feet tall and three feet wide under ideal conditions. The plant prefers regular moisture and full sun, ‘though it will tolerate some light shade. It offers excellent winter interest unless damaged by heavy snow.

Gracillimus Maiden Grass

The big, bold Gracillimus maiden grass is considered the most popular of the miscanthus group of grasses. With its flowers and seedheads in place, Gracillimus can grow to be six feet tall with a spread of four feet.

The flowers are soft pink and produce violet-colored seed heads beginning in late summer. This grass is effective as either a single specimen plant or in mass plantings in larger landscapes.

Gracillimus does best in full sun but tolerates light shade. It prefers average to moist conditions and should not be allowed to dry out.

Flame Miscanthus Grass

Many ornamental grasses excel at offering fall color. As you might guess, that’s where Flame grass gets its name.

Flame grass produces an abundance of coral-pink flowers in late summer followed by silvery seedheads. As a bonus, the late-season foliage turns a striking coppery-red, delivering the “flames” implied by the name.

Flame grass has an especially vertical growth habit, reaching up to five feet high and four feet wide. It prefers full sun, but tolerates some shade. Consistent moisture will help the grass look its best.

Northwind Switch Grass

Northwind switch grass offers some of the airiest seedheads of any of the ornamental grasses featured on Richard’s list of favorites. The seeds emerge from rose-colored flowers that appear in late summer.

Come fall, the blue-green foliage turns a brilliant gold and makes an eye-catching display. The foliage is especially sturdy and will often stand up under snow loads that would damage more delicate grasses.

Northwind is also more adaptable to growing conditions than many other ornamental grasses. It should do fine in evenly moist soil but can also be right at home in much drier settings. Northwind will grow to five feet tall and three feet wide and does best in full sun to part shade.

Shenandoah Switch Grass

Richard says Shenandoah is a time-tested grass that can actually be considered drought-tolerant once it’s been “established,” meaning it’s had two full seasons of normal watering to encourage a deep root system. It’s also popular for its foliage, which turns a beautiful burgundy from late summer into fall.

Shenandoah will mature to be three feet tall and four feet wide. Full sun is best for Shenandoah, but it will tolerate some light shade.

All Gold Hokone Grass

With this selection, Richard happened to hit on a grass that I’ve just started growing in my own garden. All Gold is one of the few ornamental grasses that not only tolerates some shade, it actually prefers it.

The beautiful yellow-lime green of All Gold has me hooked! And the fact that I can grow it on the east side of my house where it gets only morning sun is a great fit!

I’ll admit: my All Gold doesn’t quite look like the photo above, but I have high hopes. I think I’m probably not watering it enough, but I can fix that!

All Gold is much shorter than the other ornamental grasses featured here. It grows to around 18″ tall and 24″ wide. It requires well draining soil and spreads politely with underground runners.

So many grasses to choose from at Tagawa!

Our Perennial department is full and that includes the ornamental grasses listed here, plus many more. If you haven’t considered planting ornamental grasses in your garden, come take a look! There are grasses to fit almost any setting, and our Perennial staff will be happy to suggest varieties that are just right for your landscape.