Question: I would like to incorporate ornamental grasses in several areas of my landscape. Could you recommend which varieties are adapted to our climate?

Answer: Ornamental grasses can be used in borders, containers, rock gardens, mass plantings and even as hedges. There are dozens of varieties that are adapted to our climate. Most are perennials and will give many years of satisfaction.



Annual varieties are mostly used in containers. Purple fountain grass is a favorite annual for large containers.

Foerster's feather reed grass is one of my favorites. Plants stand up straight as a soldier. They bend in heavy wind but spring right back to their four to five foot upright position. Their feathery golden spikes reach full height by mid-summer. This, and other feather reed grass varieties, make excellent background or specimen plants which continue to look attractive into the winter.

Skyracer moor grass is another variety which produces loose golden seed panicles early in the summer. Skyracer grows almost six feet high. Leaves turn a golden yellow in October, which adds to its beauty. Variegata moor grass is a dwarfer cousin to Skyracer with green and yellow striped leaves. It grows only three feet high but has the same loose golden seed panicles.

Bronze veil tufted hair grass has one foot tufted green clumps of grass that are topped by loose, hair-like panicles about three feet in height. The bronzy-colored seed heads last from mid-summer into the winter.

Elijah blue fescue is a clumping ornamental grass with icy blue coloration that grows about 10 inches tall. It holds up even through the heat of summer. Buff-colored plumes create an eye-catching contrast. Perfectly suited for edging, borders or mass planting as a groundcover. Drought tolerant when established and semi-evergreen.

Maiden grass is an attractive clumping ornamental grass with fine-textured, silver-green blades that turn golden-bronze after the first frost. A great specimen for adding texture to shrub borders and perennial beds or for massing as a screen. Plants grow five feet high or taller during the summer. Then in September, they produce spectacular silver flowers resembling hands with fingers. Porcupine grass has broad yellow stripes across the wide leaves. Purpurascens has purple and gold leaves which are especially bright in the fall.

Perennial Fountain grass produces three foot fountain shaped plants topped by purplish-pink foxtail flowers in late summer and fall. Variety Hameln has the same form but grows only two feet tall. Little bunny grows a foot high.

Although most grasses prefer sun, Japanese forest grass makes a graceful, colorful groundcover or border for shady areas. Also suitable for containers and mass plantings. It naturalizes well. Clumps spread gently by rhizomes.

You will find the best selection of ornamental grasses at full-service nurseries and garden stores.

Allen Wilson can be contacted at

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