Next Up

The Prettiest Ornamental Grasses for Sun and Shade

Gorgeous ornamental grasses add movement, color and texture to gardens made in the shade or sun.

1 / 10
Photo: photographer for Monrovia

Japanese Forest Grass

Choose Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola’ for shady spots. This ornamental grass, hardy in Zones 4-9, is lovely in borders, as a groundcover or container plant, or in Zen or Asian-style gardens. The yellow leaves, which have narrow, green stripes, become slightly pink when the temperatures drop. Commonly called Golden Japanese Forest Grass, the plants tolerate partial shade to partial sun. Use their sunny color to brighten up rock gardens and woodlands.

More photos after this Ad

2 / 10

Fountain Grass

Let the sunshine in. Fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) 'Hameln' flowers best in full sun, although it can take partial shade. Hardy in Zones 5-9, the plants produce fluffy, buff-colored blooms from late summer to fall; birds are attracted to their seeds. This ornamental grass grows 18-30" tall in spreading clumps. In urban areas, 'Hameln' withstands drought and air pollution. It can also tolerate the wet soil in a rain garden.

More photos after this Ad

3 / 10
Photo: Ball Horticultural Company


Sun-loving carex, commonly called leatherleaf sedge, isn’t really an ornamental grass, but it looks like one and can be used like one. ColorGrass Carex 'Amazon Mist' forms mounds of leaves that are pale green on top and silvery-white below; they almost shimmer when they're stirred by a breeze. At just 6-12" high, this sedge plays nicely with other plants in containers or small garden spaces. It's hardy in Zones 6-10.

More photos after this Ad

4 / 10
Photo: photographer for Monrovia

Orange New Zealand Sedge

Fall brings out the vivid orange colors of Carex testacea, another sedge that can be used as an ornamental grass. Hardy in Zones 6-10, the fine foliage, which starts out bronze-green, takes full to filtered sun and tolerates partial shade. Deer and rabbits tend to leave the plants alone. Let Orange New Zealand Sedge spill over the sides of containers or use it in borders. It grows in clumps that reach 18-24" tall.

More photos after this Ad