Landscaping with Ornamental GrassesDiscover the benefits of ornamental grasses and get ideas for using them in landscape design
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See what types of ornamental grasses to use to add flair and seasonality in your landscaping.
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Different types of ornamental grasses were used in this front yard for dramatic effect.
Ornamental grasses are becoming an increasingly popular choice for residential landscapes. They have numerous benefits and add a nice decorative touch to any garden with their textured foliage and soft seed heads. Ornamental grasses come in many varieties, be sure to pick the ones best suited for your climate and property conditions.
Why choose ornamental grasses?
- Low maintenance
- Provide year-round interest
- Many types are drought tolerant
- Move gently in the wind
- Attract wildlife
How can ornamental grasses be used in landscape design?
- As specimen plants in perennial borders
- Planted in groups or masses for dramatic effect
- Layered in a planting bed - short grasses as edging, mid-sized as transition and tall as backbone/structure
- As a screen - taller varieties, i.e. reed grass and switch grass
- As ground cover - short mounding grasses with mulch, i.e. blue fescue
- To add height and texture to a container
Cool Season vs. Warm Season Grasses
Ornamental grasses are classified by two growing periods: the cool season and the warm season. Cool season grasses come to life in early spring and go dormant by the time summer arrives. Warm season grasses beginning growing during summer and will continue until temperatures hit freezing. Landscape designers recommend using a combination of cool and warm season grasses to extend the interest of your garden throughout as much of the year as possible.
- Pro Tip: Plant cool season grasses in front of warm season grasses since they will begin growing and producing seed heads first. As the cool season grasses go dormant they will reveal the lively warm season grasses behind.
Clumping Grasses vs. Running Grasses
Depending on the variety, ornamental grasses will either grow in clumps or send out runners. Clump forming grasses, sometimes called mounding, stay neat and tidy and are non-invasive. Running grasses send out underground stems that can pop up throughout an area. The later can be quite aggressive and invasive. When growing ornamental grasses alongside other plants it is best to select clumping varieties so that they won't take over and encroach on other plants.