Gardening and Landscaping

Kinds of Ornamental Grasses

If you are looking for an alternative to turfgrass on your lawn or just want to add accent plants, ornamental grasses are an superb option. Apart from being among the simplest perennials to grow, these crops offer beauty and durability in a stunning array of sizes, shapes and colours. Regardless of your landscaping obstacle, there’s almost certainly an ornamental grass which may take care of the problem.

Short Grasses

Ruby Grass (Melinus nerviglumis or Rhynchelytrum nerviglume) is a full-sun plant which packs a powerful punch despite its compact 1-by-1-foot size. Its dazzling ruby-pink flowers emerge in mid-May and continue until autumn, providing a striking contrast to the plant’s tight clumps of blue-green foliage in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 to 11. At 2 feet high and broad, the California native Berkeley Sedge (Carex divulsa) is slightly larger, but this flexible clumping evergreen is perfect once you want to produce a lush, meadow-like effect for your landscape. This durable groundcover does well under oak trees and grows in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 to 9.

Medium-Sized Grasses

At 3 feet high and wide, the New Zealand Wind Grass (Anemanthele lessoniana “Stipa arundinacea”) grows in USDA plant hardiness zones 8 to 10, in an graceful mound kind that moves with the breeze. The foliage grows deep green in the colour, but olive or amber in full sun. Both tough and lovely, the Snow Tussock (Chionochloa flavicans Zotov) grows 4 feet high and wide with deep green shiny foliage and tall showy white blooms. Snow Tussock is drought tolerant and thrives in sun or light shade in USDA plant hardiness zones 8 to 10. The Peruvian Feather Grass (Stipa ichu) grows in full sun to light shade in USDA plant hardiness zone 8 to 11. This bunch grass reaches 3 feet high and broad, bearing feather-like spring blooms against stiff needle-like lime-green foliage.

Tall Grasses

The Cape Rush (Chondropetalum tectorum) stands out with its chocolate brown bands and the length of green reed-like stems. This 4-foot-high-and-wide low-maintenance bud is topped by clusters of small, long-lasting brown blooms in USDA plant hardiness zones 8 to 10. The rosy-colored Pink Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) spreads to 3 feet high and 4 feet wide in USDA plant hardiness zones 6 to 9. Giant Feather grass (Stipa gigantean) is a clumping evergreen plant which grows 2 feet high and 4 feet wide with blossoms that stretch 3 to 4 feet above the foliage. It forms a dense mound of fine-textured gray-green rolled leaves with gold spring blooms. Growing in USDA plant hardiness zones 8 to 10, Giant Feather bud performs poorly in the colour.


According to Pamela M. Geisel of the California Statewide Master Gardener program, two grasses to avoid as they are considered invasive are Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima) and Chilean Needle grass (Nassella neesiana). Geisel proposes using Blond Ambition (Bouteloua gracilis), commonly called Blue Grama, which grows in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 to 9, in their area.

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