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16 Ornamental Grasses You Should Grow

Discover ornamental grasses that earn their keep and then some. These low-maintenance perennials add movement and multi-season beauty to any yard.

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Water-Wise Landscaping

Count on ornamental grasses to create colorful, lively plantings that don’t guzzle water. This pretty grass duet features 'Blonde Ambition’ blue grama grass (foreground), with horizontal, eyelash-like seedheads. This drought-tolerant beauty is a selection of native grass that grows 28" to 32" tall and wide (Hardy Zones 4-9). It’s a mid-sized ornamental grass that pairs beautifully with other grasses, like tall 'Pink Flamingo’ muhly grass (Muhlenbergia 'Pink Flamingo’), which is hardy in Zones 6-10.

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Photo: Julie Martens Forney. From: Julie Martens Forney.

Grasses for a Cottage Garden

Ornamental grasses can be perennial or annual, depending on where you garden. Tall 'Morning Light’ maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning Light’) is a perennial in Zones 5-9. It forms a fountain-like clump 4' to 5' tall and up to 3' wide. The fuzzy heads of purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum’) appear in summer atop plants that grow up to 3' tall and wide. This grass is tropical, hardy in Zones 9-11. In colder regions, treat it as an annual.

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Types of Fountain Grass

Fountain grass comes in a variety of sizes, as well as leaf and seedhead colors. It gets its name from the fact that the flowers and seedheads erupt from the arching mound of leaves like water from a fountain. This duet of fountain grass features (left) Prairie Winds ‘Desert Plains’ fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) and (right) purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’). ‘Desert Plains’ is hardy in Zones 5-9 and grows roughly 4' tall and wide. The bottlebrush flowers start dusky purple and fade to tan. Purple fountain grass is an annual in most regions (Hardy in Zones 9-11), growing up to 3' tall and wide. Cut it down after frost once leaves turn brown.

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Photo: Ball Horticultural Company

‘Flashlights’ Millet Grass

Turn up the color with 'Flashlights’ millet grass (Milium effusum). This bright perennial gives container combinations or planting beds a golden glow. 'Flashlights’ grow 18" to 24" tall and wide, making it a great choice for rock gardens or an edging plant in mixed borders. Give it a spot in full sun with rich, well-drained soil. Hardy in Zones 6-9.

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