Ornamental grasses are well-loved for their long, pretty plumes as well as their graceful stems that gently blow in the wind. They require minimal maintenance and love full sun, which also make them a popular plant especially in a drier area of the landscape.
Popular since the Victorian era, Ornamental grasses are easy to take care of and maintain. They need water every three or four days until their root systems are deeply established, and then after that, simply water when rainfall is less than normal, paying close attention to late Summer/ Fall. Most varieties look their absolute best with a good pruning in late Winter (prune to be about a foot tall. This keeps their graceful shape- they are fast growers and will recover their height no problem), but other than that, most varieties perform best in full sun. Read below to learn where to plant and possible companion plants to these beauties.
Pennisetum: This is what most of us think of probably when thinking of fountain grasses. Think of grasses with feathery plumes, and you've got Pennisetum. If you are thinking of a traditional fountain grass to add to your landscape, 'Cassian' is a great choice and matures to be 3' tall and wide.
'Cassian' Fountain Grass
Companion plants for 'Cassian' would be Black Eyed Susan with Daylilies of any color sprinkled around. And then there is 'Little Bunny'- easily my favorite of the Pennisetum bunch. He is as cute as he sounds, only reaching a foot tall by a foot wide with cute little feathery plumes in Fall. He looks great on a hillside amid creeping phlox!
'Little Bunny' Dwarf Fountain Grass
Other varieties of Pennisetum include 'Karley Rose' (awesome rose-colored plumes), 'Piglet' (another cute dwarf variety similar to 'Little Bunny'), and 'Foxtrot' (reaches 5' tall by 3-4' wide).
Schizachyrium: Little Bluestem is a great option if you need to add a little pop o' color in your life (or landscape!) and love upright, tall grasses that do not flop over.
'The Blues' has gorgeous, you guessed it, blue-hued stems that turn slightly bronze in the Fall. It is tolerant of many soils, including clay, loves humidity and full sun. It is an ornamental grass that does well in a wide variety of climates including the northwest, midwest, southwest, and here in the southeast. Seriously, what is there not to love about this plant?
'The Blues' Little Bluestem
This ornamental grass looks wonderful in a mass planting. Companion plants for Little Bluestem include perennials such as Coreopsis, Coneflower, Yarrow, and Black eyed Susan.
Miscanthus: Maiden Grass is the common name for this beautiful type of ornamental grasses. Mass plant one variety together to create an informal hedge. They also look great planted singly and add height beside a water garden or a a pretty backdrop for brightly colored perennials such as Black Eyed Susan, Coneflower, and Daylilies. Be sure to plant Maiden Grass in plenty of sun- they tend to become floppy if they receive too much shade. One of my favorites is 'Morning Light' because of its variegated leaves and graceful shape. If you need a really large variety of ornamental grass (to conceal an air conditioning unit for example), 'Gracillimus' is a good one to consider. It becomes 6-8' tall by 6' wide.
'Gracillimus' Maiden Grass
Panicum: Switch Grass has a narrow, upright shape that is easily grown in average soils in full to mostly sunny locations. 'Northwind' is an especially good variety known for being one of the best varieties for superb vertical form. Olive-green to blue-green foliage turns yellow-beige in Fall and provides good Winter interest. Seeds are a food source for birds in Winter.
'Northwind' Switch Grass
Another great variety of Switch Grass is 'Shenandoah'. It turns from a blue-green hue to bright burgundy in Fall, making it have spectacular Fall foliage. Use as an accent plant, in a grouping, or mass planting. Because it tolerates wet soil, it can also be used in rain gardens or near water gardens.
'Shenandoah' Switch Grass
Companion plants for Switch Grass include Sedum 'Autumn Joy' (especially looks wonderful near 'Shenandoah' to repeat the burgundy tones in Fall), Black Eyed Susan, Coneflowers, Boxwoods, & dwarf Loropetalum.
Feel free to ask any questions below or share with us-which is your favorite out of these we talked about today?