Ornamental Grasses & Sedges for the Landscape

Ornamental grasses and various varieties of sedge are often used in landscape design in order to add grace and movement to a garden. There are a vast variety of plants to choose from so I will discuss a few of the more popular and widely used species that are all hardy in zone 7.  Ornamental grasses and sedges can fit into a variety of landscapes including foundation plantings, poolscapes, perennial borders, rock gardens and naturalized settings, and as an added bonus, most are also deer resistant.

GRASS Dwarf Fountain Grass Hameln

Dwarf Fountain Grass Hameln

Dwarf Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’) is an attractive dwarf grass growing to 2-3 feet in height and hardy in zones 4-11.  ‘Hameln’ requires full sun and prefers a well-drained soil. It is drought tolerant once established.  It is known for its wispy green foliage in summer and golden-rust foliage and fluffy, buff-colored plumes appearing in fall. ‘Hameln’ works nicely along with evergreens or flowering shrubs in a foundation planting or as a backdrop in a perennial bed. There is even a smaller sized variety of this grass called ‘Little Bunny’ which grows to only 1-2 feet in height and width for tighter areas. The grass is almost identical to ‘Hameln’ only the foliage and plumes are on a slightly smaller scale.

 Maiden Grass Yaku Jima

Maiden Grass Yaku Jima

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Yaku Jima’ is a hardy ornamental grass in zones 5-8 and grows to 4-5 feet in height. It requires full sun and is drought tolerant once established. ‘Yaku Jima’ serves nicely as a backdrop in a perennial border or in a privacy screening. It also looks beautiful in a poolscape or pond planting. The beauty of this dwarf version of traditional Miscanthus is that is does not become top-heavy and flop over but rather remains upright throughout the season. .

Maiden Grass 'Morning Light'

Maiden Grass ‘Morning Light’

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ is another form of upright grass with narrow green foliage edged in creamy-white. It is hardy to zones 5-9 and requires full sun to partial shade and grows to a height of 4-6 feet tall by 3 feet wide. Coppery-pink plumes emerge in fall.   ‘Morning Light’ also serves nicely in pool settings and perennial or privacy borders along with evergreens.  The variegation contrasts nicely with an evergreen backdrop.

Halenkolea Japanese Forest Grass

Halenkolea Japanese Forest Grass

Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ (Golden Japanese Forest Grass) is one of the most attractive of the ornamental grasses and one of the few that prefers to be grown in shade  Hardy to zones 4-9, Hakonechloa forms mounds of bamboo-looking grass growing to 6-8 inches tall by 12-18 inches wide. Japanese Forest Grass prefers a moist loamy soil and serves nicely in an informal setting such as a garden border or shade garden.

Carex 'Evergold' Sedge

Carex ‘Evergold’ Sedge

Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’ (Variegated Japanese Sedge) is a grass-like Japanese selection forming low clumps only 6-8 inches tall by 9-12 inches wide.  It prefers to be grown in part sun to full shade in a moist, loamy soil.  Carex ‘Evergold’ is hardy in zones 5-9 and displays a green-yellow variegated foliage.  It serves nicely in a rock garden, foundation planting or perennial border.

Carex 'Aurea'

Carex ‘Aurea’

Carex ‘Aurea’ is another form of Carex displaying golden foliage and growing to a height and width of 2-3 feet.  This Carex is hardy in zones 5-9 and prefers full sun to partial shade a moderately moist soil. Glowing yellow foliage has an edging of green and forms dense upright clumps which fit nicely into pond settings and in shady areas.

Japanese Bloodgrass
                          Japanese Bloodgrass

Imperata cylindrica ‘Rubra’  (Japanese blood grass) is often used in naturalized areas displaying its bright red-green foliage.  Japanese Bloodgrass grows to a height and width of 12-18 inches and forms clumps that spread by rhizomes. It is hardy in ones 5-9 and prefers full sun to partial shade and a well-drained soil.  This species of ornamental grass can spread easily so plant in an area where it can be controlled.such as the pool planter shown above.

Golden Sweet Flag

Golden Sweet Flag

Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’ (Golden Variegated Sweet Flag) is not a true grass but has a grass-like appearance growing in dense upright mounds of bright golden foliage. Sweet Flag is hardy in zones 5-11 and prefer to be grown in partial sun to dense shade in a moderately moist soil.  Mature size is 8-12 inches high by wide and Sweet Flag serves nicely in a pond setting, rock garden, or foundation planting as a ground cover under the canopy of trees.

Zebra Grass

Zebra Grass

The last grass, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’ (Zebra Grass) is known of its striking horizontally banded foliage.   Golden-yellow bands on green fronds are displayed on this larger upright clumping grass that reaches a height and spread of 6 feet and up to 8 feet tall with plumes.   Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’ prefers to be grown in full sun to partial shade in a well-drained soil and is hardy in zones 5-9. Tiny pinkish-copper tassel-like flower heads form in late summer, gradually turning into silvery white plumes in fall. Flower plumes persist well into winter providing good winter interest.  This plant serves nicely in an informal beach-like or coastal setting.

Depending on your landscape, ornamental grasses can add wonderful all-season interest to the garden and serve a variety of functions.  There are so many varieties of sizes and foliage to choose from that they can fit into just about any type of setting.

As Always…Happy Gardening!

Author:  Lee@Landscape Design By Lee, 2014, All Rights Reserved

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