Ornamental Grasses

Guidelines to Grow Your Own Ornamental Grasses

There is a wide variety of ornamental grasses to choose from and numerous ways to successfully use them in your own garden, whether it’s large or small.

• For an informal feel, plant them generously in your beds without any specific plan. As one can see through most ornamental grasses, they won’t obscure any plants behind them in the bed. And the contrast between moving grasses and more static plants in a bed is quite lovely. 

• If your taste is more formal, intersperse ornamental grasses with other plants at regular intervals to create a pattern.  Carex  ‘Frosted Curls’ and  Carex ‘Bronze’ can be successfully planted to the front of beds in a formal garden for a beautiful finishing touch

• Growing a large group of a single type of grass can also be very impressive.

Perfect Placements 

Ornamental grasses bring movement and sound to a garden. The slightest breeze sets the seeds of larger grasses, in particular,  a-rustling and dancing in the wind. And the different textures and colors of grasses add contrast to your garden. Grasses also soften garden paths. Use the smaller varieties, such as the dark green  Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Kyoto Dwarf’ (dwarf mondo grass), between paving stones or river stones in areas that call for a neat appearance, with looser types, such as Carex  ‘Frosted Curls’, where they can sprawl across the pathway. This looks lovely whether that pathway consists of paving stones, sections of logs, or pebbles. Grasses also work well in containers, providing a good show for most of the year; some may die down in the winter, but that’s the ideal time to cut them right back and encourage new growth.

No Fuss Required 

Grasses don’t need much maintenance,  and should only be cut back once they grow out of hand. Some – particularly the smaller varieties – look lovely all year round and those that bear seed heads add a special feeling and height to a garden, even in the heart of winter. You need only cut back seed-bearing grasses after winter unless, of course, you don’t want them to self-seed.

What Are Ornamental Grasses? 

Unlike the grasses we’re accustomed to mowing every week, ornamental grasses consist of a large group  (including sedges and some indigenous restios *) that are grown purely for their appearance. Some grow tall and flaunt seed heads and plumes in late summer and autumn, while other low-growing species add the ideal finishing touch to beds and pathways.  You’ll find a wide variety at nurseries and garden centers, so see what appeals to you, paying particular attention to indigenous species.  


Some horticulturists don’t consider questions to be grasses, but reeds – but that doesn’t stop gardeners from successfully using them as ornamental grasses.

Fast Facts

• Ornamental grasses are highly adaptable. 

• They don’t need good soil to grow well. 

• They don’t need much attention. 

• They’re susceptible to very few pests and diseases. 

• Their water needs differ – some flourish in dry conditions while others like their feet wet and some fare best in a warm climate, while others prefer colder conditions. 

• Annuals are easy to grow from seed. 

• With grasses in your garden, finches will raid them for nesting materials and leave your palm trees alone!