How to grow Ornamental Grasses:

They are easy to grow, propagate and maintain.
I like to say "you'll save money on birdseed as well" - but my birds eat the seeds from garden and from the birdfeeders. :)

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Ornamental Grasses:

Ornamental grassses are extremely versatile plants that are undemanding when it comes to care, water and maintenance.
Most of the hardy ornamental grasses are perennials. Their delicate foliage may be green, blue-green or variegated with yellow, cream or red. In the fall and winter; the foliage turns tan or brown and adds interest to the dormant garden. The height for ornamental grasses ranges from several inches to several feet. The best best ornamental grasses are the clump-forming species, but I did by a spreader just because I liked the colour. ( Blue Lyme) :)

Combine Ornamental Grasses:

Most ornamental grasses are often combined with other plants. I like them with Roses, Irises, Black Eyed-Susan, Echinacea, Russian Sage, Yucca and Nicotiana. They just gracefully fill in the extra space around them.

Caring for Ornamental Grasses:

Grasses are not demanding of fussy plants. They a light feed in the spring and water when they are dry. I water once a week. They will flourish if planted in rich soil, but they also do reasonably well when planted in any type of soil.
Ornamental grasses are tough, adaptable, drought tolerant plants that can stand weeks without water. Few grasses like; sedges and rushes, thrive in boggy conditions, but most grasses are happier in drier conditions.

Dividing Grasses:

Perennial ornamental grasses can stay untouched for 10 years or more. When it's time to divide, just use a garden fork and dig the clump and them tear the big clump into small pieces. For larger grasses you might need a saw or an ax to cut the large clumps into pieces.

Grass Maintenance:

The only maintenance that grasses needs is an annual cleaning to keep them tidy and remove the previous seasons dead foliage. Generally this is done in the winter. I do mine in the spring and give them a handful of slow release fertilizer. Cut the plants back to the base; short plants like fescue should be cut to 1" - to 2", tall clump-forming plants 6 - 8 inches.

Varieties of Ornamental Grasses:

Annual Grasses - good for Container Gardening and Pots:

  1. Briza Maxima ( big quaking grass )
    Height: 1 - 2 feet
    Season of Interest: Summer to Fall
    Culture: Full sun. Poor soil. Does not propate well. Sow seeds outdoors after last frost. Good on dried flower arrangements.
  2. Coix lacryma-jobi ( Job's tears)
    Height: 3 - 4- feet
    Season of interest: Summer to Fall
    Culture: Full sun to partial shade. Moist soil. Propagate by seed. Soak seeds in water for 24 hours and then sow outdoors after last frost. Relative of corn. Seeds can be strung like beads. Best were summers are long and hot.
  3. Pennisetum villosum ( Feathertop )
    Height: 2 feet
    Season of interest: Summer to Fall
    Culture: Full sun. Average well-drained soil. Propagate by seed outdoors after last frost. Hardy to Zone 9.
  4. Setaria italica ( Foxtail millet
    Height: 2 - 4 feetfeet
    Season of interest: Summer to Fall
    Culture: Full sun. Moist well-drained soil. Plants will not tolerate drought. Propagate by seed outdoors after last frost. Seeds heads are attractive and long-lasting when dried.

Perennial Grasses:

  1. Calamagrostis acutiflora var. stricta ( Feather reed grass)
    Height: 3- 5 feet
    Season of interest: Summer to late winter
  2. Carex spp. (Sedge )
    Height: 6 - 24 inches
    Season of interest: Spring through Fall
  3. Chasmanthium Latifolium ( Northern Sea Oats )
    Height: 3 - 5 feet
    Season of interest: Summer through Fall
  4. Miscanthus sinesis ( Eulalia or Maiden grass )
    Height: 4 - 8 feet
    Season of interest: Spring to mid winter
  5. Panicum virgatum ( Switch grass )
    Height: 5 - 6 feet
    Season of interest: Late summer through winter
  6. Pennisetum spp. ( Fountain Grass )
    Height: 5 - 6 feet
    Season of interest: Summer through winter

Perennial Grasses that I have
and bought at Homedepot, Lowes and Canadian tire:
Some of the tags were already faded. :)

  1. Calamagrostis x acutiflora ( Reed Grass Calamagrostide "Avalanche" )
    Height: 4 - 5 feet
    Flowering Time: Summer to early autumn
    Exposure: Full sun
    Hardiness: -30°F - 30 °C
    Water: Water when top 1" is dry
    Feed: Slow release feed in spring
    Bought at:
  2. Elymus arenarius "Glauca" ( Blue Lyme grass )
    Beautiful colour, but it grows wherever it wants to.
    Height: 24"/60cm
    Flowering Time: Summer
    Exposure: Full sun
    Hardiness: Zone4 -30°F - 20 °F
  3. Festuca ovina var. glauca ( Blue Fescue )
    Height: 6 - 12 inches
    Season of interest: all year long
    Culture: Full Sun. Well drained soil. Progate in the spring by division or seeds.
    Zone: 4
    Dried seeds heads attractive in bouquets.
  4. Hakonechloa macra "Aureola" ( Golden variegated hakonechloa )
    Height: 12 - 18 inches
    Season of interest: Spring through Fall
    Culture: Partial shade. Rich well-drained soil. Propagate by division.
    Zones: 4 - 10
    Color fades in the sun.
    Bought at Canadian Tire
  5. Impereta cylindrica var. rubra ( Japanese blood grass )
    Height: 10 - 12 inches
    Season of interest: Spring through Fall
    Culture: Full sun to partial shade. Rich soil that is moist but well drained.
    Propagate by division.
    Zones: 5 - 10
  6. Phalaris arundinacea picta ( Ribbon Gras )s
    Height: 24"/60cm
    Flowering Time: Summer
    Exposure: Part shade
    Hardiness: Zone2 -40°F - 30 deg;F
    Canadian:-40°C - 34°C

Frequently Asked Questions:

I don't think you can keep some grassess from becoming invasive.
I have this grass that I love ( Blue Lyme ) and I planted in a pot and in my flower bed. The grass roots grow over the pot and established itself where it wasn't wanted. I still have it and planted it where it didn't matter if it spreads.
Now I only buy ornamental grasses that are clump-forming.

Most ornamental grasses prefer well-draining soil and should be watered deeply once a week.

Ornamental grasses do not require a lot of fertilizer, but a light feeding of a slow release fertilizer in the spring can help promote healthy growth.

Ornamental grasses should be pruned in early spring to remove dead foliage and promote new growth. However, if you live in a place with a lot of snow - in the spring - you wish you had prunned all of your grasses in the Fall.
Ornamental grasses are pretty in the winter covered with ice or snow.

I really don't do anything to my ornamental grasses. I just let them do their thing all winter and wish I had trimmed them back in the spring. :)

I use Ornamental Grasses for height, texture, colour, movement and free birdseed in my garden. They can also be used in borders, privacy, focal point and grown in pots for the extra height. Ornamental grasses are also attractive in bouquets.


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