Using Ornamental Grasses

Although often overlooked, ornamental grasses can add grace and motion to your garden thanks to their strap-like foliage that will sway even in the gentlest breeze. Many varieties also feature fluffy flowers and seed heads that will last throughout the winter, attracting birds and adding winter interest to the garden.

Like other varieties of perennials, ornamental grasses come in many different textures, colors, sizes and flower forms. In addition to a varied collection of green hues, foliage and flower colors also include red, pink, purple, tan and white. With sizes ranging from dwarf 1 foot varieties to 9 foot giants, these grasses can be used in containers or borders, as a groundcover or to create a living screen.

Site Selection

Most grasses prefer full sun to light shade and a well-drained soil, but some types will tolerate other conditions. Take note of your light and soil conditions and then check your plant tag or our online gardening catalog before you select your varieties.

Planting Instructions

Proper planting technique is instrumental to the overall health of your plants. Follow these simple instructions to make sure your ornamental grasses get off on the right foot:

  1. We recommend spacing your plants 1 to 3 feet apart, depending on the variety. This will give your grasses plenty of room to grow and fill in the space.
  2. Next, prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12-15 inches, then mix in a 2-4 inch layer of compost.
  3. Dig a hole twice the diameter of the pot the plant is in.
  4. Remove the plant from its container and place it in the hole so the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface.
  5. Carefully fill in around the root ball and firm the soil gently.
  6. Water thoroughly.

Plant Care

To ensure happy and healthy grasses, apply a thin layer of compost each spring, followed by a 2" layer of mulch to retain moisture and control weeds. Appropriate watering is crucial, especially during the hot summer months. A deep watering 2-3 times a week will provide your grasses with the necessary moisture they need to thrive.

In late winter, you can cut back your grasses to stimulate new growth. Some species may also need dividing every 3 to 4 years to keep the plants vigorous, while taller species such as fountain grass may require staking.