Discover the many types of ornamental grass and how they differ from one another. You’ll never look at grass the same way again.
There are more than 10,000 grass species in the world out of over 1 million plant species. Grass is also one of the oldest living organisms ever discovered. The oldest is said to be 200,000 years and is a type of seagrass found in the Mediterranean Sea.
Grasslands cover over 20 percent of the Earth’s vegetation and are found mostly in temperate and tropical habitats. When it comes to typical lawns, on the other hand, about six grass plants can grow per square inch so that’s about millions of grass plants for an average lawn.
Aurea (Carex elata)
This grass is also called the Bowles’ Golden Sedge and grows up to 18 inches tall and three feet in width. It is resistant to deer and wet conditions and it has shiny yellow blades and fine green edges that elegantly reach towards the ground. Its hair-like, iridescent foliage is one reason it looks so good with flowering bulbs or perennials. When you see it, you won’t wonder why it has won so many international awards.
Blaufuchs (Festuca glauca)
Some people call this grass Blue Fox and it will definitely catch your attention. The dwarf grass has bluish-silver foliage and upright flower blooms in the summer. These blooms start out the same color as the foliage but turn to light tan as they age. It is a low-maintenance, drought-resistant grass that likes full sun but doesn’t require a lot of water.
Blue Oat Grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens)
With narrow steel-blue leaves and growing in round clumps, the Blue Oat grass is a semi-evergreen that is low-maintenance and starts out in early to mid summer as small spikelets that are straw-colored. The winner of several international awards, this type of grass does great in full sun and dry soils that have good drainage.
Cosmopolitan (Miscanthus sinensis var. condensatus)
Also called Maiden Grass, this type of grass has variegated foliage consisting of green blades and creamy white margins. It grows up to eight feet high and can get as wide as five feet and as it matures, it turns into a more silver color that is quite striking.
Elijah Blue (Festuca glauca)
Also called the Blue Fescue, this grass consists of two parts: a low-growing mound of dense, bright silver-blue foliage and upright flower plumes on long stems that start out the same color as the foliage, then turn to tan as the grass matures. The grass looks great as borders or edging, and it grows to 12 inches high and 12 inches wide. It is deer-resistant and requires very little water to remain looking good.
Everest (Carex oshimensis)
Also called Japanese Sedge, this grass gets up to 18 inches high and has beautiful narrow, glossy, dark green leaves with edges that are silver-white in color. It is vigorous, it is easy to grow, and its color contrasts beautifully with many bulb plants and even perennials. It grows year-round and it looks beautiful in shady areas that you wish to add some oomph to.
Flamingo (Miscanthus sinensis)
Another type of Maiden grass, it flowers early and has plumes that start out rose-pink and turn to silver-white as it ages. It grows up to six feet high and five feet wide and it makes a beautiful accent plant, hedge, or border.
Foxtail Barley (Hordeum jubatum)
The Foxtail Barley has arching, elegant leaves and flower spikes that resemble feathers that are colored green, pale pink, or purple, then turn light tan as the grass matures. It blooms from late spring to mid summer and it lasts a long time in dried or fresh arrangements. It grows up to two feet tall and looks great in borders or beds, not to mention in mass plantings and meadows.
Frosted Curls (Carex comans)
Also called New Zealand Hair Sedge, this grass can soften any landscape due to its pale silver-green grass-like leaves and its year-round aspect. The grass gets up to 18 inches tall, it does well in bright sun or partial shade, and it makes a great accent, border, or plant for your container.
Ghana (Miscanthus sinensis)
The reddish-brown plumes on this grass make it very unique and with its height of up to six feet, it can soften any landscape. The grass goes from reddish-brown to silver-white as it matures and even the leaves change from bright green to burgundy, then to a golden-yellow when fall hits so it is truly a very colorful grass.
Golden Oats (Stipa gigantean)
Also called Giant Needle Grass, this grass has arching, greenish-grey leaves that contain flower spikes rising four feet above the foliage. Growing up to six feet tall, the grass has won several international awards and with its silvery spikelets, it looks amazing swaying in the breeze, especially at sunset.
Hanse Herms (Panicum virgatum)
Also known as Switch grass, this grass consists of upright, compact foliage that is steely blue in color with red-tinged tips. They eventually turn dark red and then burgundy-red, which it remains through the winter. The grass is deer-resistant, it is virtually free of diseases and pests, and it looks great alongside ponds and streams. They also look good when planted in masses and they can tolerate both wet and dry soil.
Himalaya Fairy Grass (Miscanthus nepalensis)
As its name implies, this grass is native to the Himalayas and grows up to five feet high and four feet in width. It makes a graceful accent plant and has plumes that are silky and creamy in late summer. The rest of the time, it has leaves that are lush and green and it is so attractive that it makes a great focal point for any garden. It is rabbit- and deer-resistant and it does best in full sun. It is also very attractive to birds and looks beautiful in cottage gardens and in prairies.
Karl Foerster (Calamagrostis x acutiflora)
Also called Feather Reed Grass, this type of grass can grow up to six feet high and has flower plumes that are feathery and stand upright. The plumes are usually tan in color and make the grass sway when there’s a breeze, contributing to its elegance. It has won international awards and is deer- and rabbit-resistant. The grass requires little maintenance and looks beautiful as borders or even as a specimen plant.
Karley Rose (Pennisetum orientale)
Also called Oriental Fountain Grass, it has long, slender branches with fuzzy rose-purple flowers. With deep green foliage to complement its flowers, the Karley Rose grows up to three feet tall and blooms from early summer into fall. It is a versatile grass that looks great wherever it is planted.
Little Kitten (Miscanthus sinensis)
A type of Maiden grass, it is perfect for small gardens. It grows only to three feet high and it has fine-textured foliage and narrow green leaves and it turns to many shades of brown in the Fall. It looks beautiful in cottage or city gardens, hedges, prairies, and even containers.
Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis)
Also known as Gracillimus, it has an abundance of flower plumes in flushed purple and it shows off best in late summer. It grows up to six feet tall, prefers full sun, and is deer- and rabbit-resistant. Moreover, the birds love it and as it ages, it turns a more silver color, making it truly eye-catching.
Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon japonicus)
Growing only one foot high and 15 inches in width, the Mondo grass consists of arching, dark-green leaves and tiny lilac flowers that emerge in summer only to turn to blueberry-like fruits later on. It is a tough, durable plant that is perfect for edges and groundcovers and it is virtually disease-free. It does best in full sun or partial shade and turns dense and soft with age.
Moor Grass (Molinia caerulea subsp. arundinacea)
Also known as Purple Moor Grass, it is a very graceful plant with thread-like leaves that start out green, mature to purplish-brown, then turn a golden tan. The grass mixes great with nearly any perennial and it forms a dense clump that grows up to eight feet high. It is also low-maintenance and prefers full sun and light shade.
New Zealand Wind Grass (Anemanthele lessoniana)
Fast-growing and very sturdy, this grass consists of arching, dark green leaves that turn into various shades of gold, copper, and bronze as it ages. The winner of several international awards, the grass is low-maintenance and can last all year long.
Nicolas (Hakonechloa macra)
Also called Hakone Grass, it consists of elegant, arching blades in colors of green to start with and then colors such as gold, red, and orange once it starts to mature. It does well in partial shade and grows up to 16 inches in height. The Nicolas loves shady, moist conditions and makes great groundcovers, accent plants, and container plants.
Northwind (Panicum virgatum)
Known as Switch grass, it grows up to six feet in height and consists of dense, upright blades of foliage that are olive green to blue-green in color. As it ages, it turns to spikelets that resemble golden flowers until the fall, when both the leaves and the spikelets turn tan. It prefers full sun or partial shade and it looks great in gardens or when planted alongside streams and ponds.
Ornamental Onion (Allium giganteum)
With long spikes and round, onion-like blooms sitting on top, the balls are made with tiny, purple-lilac flowers that can be as wide as six inches. The plant grows to six feet high and blooms in late spring to early summer. The winner of several international awards, the grass is beautiful in borders, beds, and even in vases or containers.
Prairie Fire (Carex testacea)
Also known as Speckled Sedge, this grass has leaves that are olive-green and accented in bright orange. It is a great accent plant, it is low-maintenance, and it has brown spikes that droop gracefully with age. The grass grows up to two feet tall, is generally disease-free, and is a perfect complement to other plants, gravel, or even mulch.
Pumila (Cortaderia selloana)
Native to South America, this compact grass does well in medium-sized gardens. It consists of narrow, greenish-grey leaves and from late summer to mid winter, the leaves are topped with very large plumes that are silky and creamy-white in color. The grass tolerates almost any type of soil and it can grow up to six feet tall and four feet wide.
Quaking Grass (Briza media)
This grass is entertaining and unique. It starts out green with tints of purple, then fades to a tan color as it ages. With flat spikelets that resemble puffy oats and leaves that are soft and deep green in color, it requires very little care, is drought-tolerant, and is perfect when dried and used in fresh or dried arrangements. It also looks great in cottage gardens and in meadows or other naturalized areas.
Red Baron (Imperata cylindrica)
Also known as Japanese Blood Grass, it stands upright and starts out with bright green blades and turns cranberry-red on top in the summer. The grass grows up to 18 inches high and once it’s established, it is drought-tolerant. It is also deer-resistant and very low-maintenance.
Rubrum (Pennisetum setaceum)
Also called Purple Fountain Grass, it has both graceful movement and beautiful color. With rich deep-red foliage and plumes that are crimson and arch gracefully, the Rubrum prefers full sun or partial shade and is the perfect specimen plant. It is ignored by deer and it grows to five feet tall and up to four feet in width. If planted en masse, it provides a very dramatic effect because of its striking colors.
Silver Feather Grass (Stipa barbata)
With upright foliage that is slender and arches upwards, this grass is a shimmery silver color and is one of the showiest mid summer grasses available. It grows to three feet tall and three feet wide and it is virtually free of diseases and pests. It is a low-maintenance grass that looks great in beds, borders, and even in containers.
Strictus (Miscanthus sinensis)
Also called the Porcupine Grass, it is striking with its arching leaves with soft yellow rings around them. The leaves come in colors that include pale brown, subtle pink, and silver, depending on the age of the grass, and it grows up to eight feet tall, making it quite unique.
Also known as Zebra Grass, it has soft yellow rings around its green foliage and its colors include buff silver, pinkish-copper, and rich gold, depending on its age. It can grow up to seven feet tall and up to six feet in width, meaning that you have to give it a lot of room to grow after you plant it.
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