Ornamental grasses are versatile garden plants that add movement and structure to the borders and no cutting alternatives to traditional lawns. Many varieties are available for your landscaping needs, with features such as attractive flowers, different textures, bold colors, in low-growing carpets or spiky heights. These perennials are low-maintenance and hard enough for the different regions around the country.
If you live in this area, you will enjoy short but mild to moderate summers along the coast, with longer, warmer summers further inland. Preparing for the extreme winter weather is a given, but don't forget the hurricanes that can happen in the middle of the latter part of the year. Landscape choices must be able to withstand pretty much anything.
Purple Fountain Grass
This graceful plant can grow three to five feet long and two to four feet wide with a rounded growth habit. Soft, springy plums dance at the end of high stalks from summer to frost. These little lovers can handle a bit of thirst, and will probably not be affected by the deer's attention.
Sometimes called Japanese Forest Grass, this beautiful chopper ornamental plant has variegated foliage that extends from chartreuse to apple green and becomes coppery orange when the weather. Its gentle cascading habit adds mystery to a shady place, whether planted in the ground, in operation or as an accent piece in a container. Originally to Japan, this tough plant can grow to 24 inches long, spread slowly in clumps, so the threat of being invasive is minimal.
Named for the body part of the animal it resembles, these fuzzy perennials are low-growing and perfect for the front of a flower border. It produces a top with charming, purple flowers that attract valuable pollinators to your garden. The fleshy, velvety leaves are gray and a perfect foil for the riot of colors found in the garden. They are easily naturalized and recur in ever-spreading clumps each year, but the brittle stalks make them easy to remove if you need to tame them.
The temperatures in this region can vary over 100 degrees between winter and summer. Frigid cold and brutal heat with high humidity characterize typical conditions. The amount of rainfall varies by location and can average 36 inches in northern Minnesota to a huge snowfall of 70 inches in areas bordering Lake Superior. Moderate spring and autumn temps range from 50 to 70 degrees – a good time to get the planting on!
Spring reed grass
This ornamental plant grows to about five meters high and provides an upright and narrow element and is best planted in groups for a fuller effect. The flower nails are similar to feathers at the end of the stems that can last in winter. It is tolerant to heavy soil, but likes to keep the feet fairly moist.
Japanese Blood Grass
As the name implies, this grass adds dramatic color when it turns almost blood red in the fall. It is a hardy plant that likes moist soil with good drainage and can be aggressive in the flower bed, so use cautiously and with care. Its beauty can surpass its gentle habit, and you may prefer to plant in containers to enjoy it without having to work too hard to handle it. It grows in a lump to 18 inches high and spreads to almost three feet.
There are several varieties of Japanese silver grass, some of which are not hardy for this area, so check with your local nursery. The types that suit the brutal winters estimate full sun with moist soil growing up to eight meters high. Their size makes them perfect as a natural screen in the garden, otherwise a single plant is close to water features.
The challenges of hot, humid summers are not so great things for people who are no strangers to extreme weather in the form of hurricanes and severe flooding. Thankfully, there are ornamental plants with the same hardness and strength as the good people in this area.
Mexican Spring Grass
Both leaves and flowers in this weeping ornamental section are finely textured and sensitive. It grows in an airy mound, up to 24 inches high. It likes full sun and does not suffer from thirsty habits so plant it with other like-minded peers. Planted in groups, the foliage is waved in the wind with a ripple effect for calming movement in the garden.
Muhly Grass or Hairgrass
Another fine textured ornament, this sports a cloud of pink or white flowers that seem to float over the foliage when in bloom. Withstands heat and drought, as well as disease resistant, hair grass grows to almost three feet of blue-gray clumping foliage. It is also known to attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs and is an excellent source of coverage for various animals and birds.
The dry and arid region is lucky to be able to grow a variety of ornamental grass without much effort. Of course, that in itself can be a problem, as many of the warm seasonal grasses grow easily again, potentially becoming invasive. Be careful when choosing and placing these versatile plants.
This low grower is at home in front of a flower border or planted in liquid drift. It likes cooler times that higher altitudes can deliver, but can be planted in warmer low altitudes as long as it gets some shade. Depending on variation, it can grow to 18 or 30 inches high and is a water saver for its dry tolerance. The blue-green color gives a cool effect to the color palette of your garden, with playful pointed hills growing to two meters high.
As a southwestern native, this tall ornamental plant is home to the arid landscape. It can be six meters long and five meters wide, is drought tolerant, with airy flowers that delicately float above the finely clumped foliage. It does not have the broad fluffy seed heads that the pampas grass has, but has attractive flowers that can be cut and brought indoors for fall and winter decorations. And as a native, pampas grass may not be the potential threat.
Majestic evergreens, mountains and rocky coastlines provide a variety of microclimate that can support several types of ornamental grass. West of the cascades dominates the gray wet days, while to the east you can be sure to have hot summers and freezing winters.
With names like Blue Zinger, Red Rooster and Cappucino, sedges are an exciting set of plants to present to your garden. They grow no more than one foot by 18 inches wide, so plant them in groups for the best effect. They like moist, well-drained soil and can withstand sun to light or partial shade.
Available in different heights and colors, these versatile plants add softness and movement to the garden image. It is easy to handle and grows quickly to three meters long and wide. Flashy plums make attractive cuttings for indoor displays.
No matter where you live, there is an ornamental grass that wonderfully enhances your garden landscape.