A Garden Bed of Grasses

Ornamental grasses produce fabulous textural effects and look stunning when grouped together.

Most ornamental grasses are easy to maintain, and have a long season of interest, with plumes of flowers in summer followed by seedheads and stems that offer color and structure in winter.

When to Plant: Autumn or early spring
At Its Best: Summer to early autumn
Time to Complete: 2 1/2 hours

Materials Needed:

  • well-composted organic matter
  • shovel
  • all-purpose fertilizer
  • pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) 'Aureolineata'
  • pampas grass 'Pumila'
  • feather grass (Stipa calamagrostis)
  • needle grass (Stipa splendens)
  • maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis) 'Malepartus'

Prepare a Border

Choose an open, sunny site for your border. Grasses generally tolerate a wide range of soil conditions, but it's always wise to dig in well-composted organic matter before planting your border.

Set Out the Plants

Maiden and pampas grasses are the tallest plants of this grouping, so set them toward the back of the border, leaving space at the front for the feather grasses. Allow about 4 feet between the larger grasses for them to spread, and 30 inches between the smaller ones.

Planting and Aftercare

Plant grasses at the same depth as they were in their original containers and mulch with gravel to help suppress weeds. Keep the plants well watered for the first year until they're established. Leave the dried stems on the plants to overwinter, and in early spring, cut them down almost to ground level to allow new growth to emerge.

Planting Options

There are many grasses to choose from and most require free-draining soil and a sunny site. For a smaller area, select the more compact cultivars — you'll find a large selection available by mail order from specialist nurseries.

Blue oat grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens) (Image 1), Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning Light' (Image 2), Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus' (Image 3), fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) (Image 4)

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