An Introduction To Ornamental Grasses

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This article is an introduction to the use of ornamental grasses in the landscape and garden.
by Brett · All Zones · Ornamental Grasses · 0 Comments · February 05, 2011 · 4,044 views

When most people think of grass, they think of something you have to mow. But "ornamental grasses" are not lawn grasses and therefore do not require mowing, maybe just a once-a-year trim or cut-back. Ornamental grasses are those that are used in the landscape and garden bed for ornamental purposes.

Ornamental grasses are now becoming popular for several reasons:

  • They can provide height, color, contrast, wildlife shelter, spiky accents, feathery waves, and low-growing clumps to gardens and landscapes.
  • They can be grown in beds or in pots.
  • They're low maintenance and tough.
  • Many grasses retain their shape and foliage structure through the winter, giving added texture to the garden.

Cultivation of grasses is as old as gardening itself. The grass family, Gramineae, produces the world's cereal crops, which are essential to both human and animal food sources. Each region of the world has its own native grasses, but it is only recently that garden cultivars have been introduced. No matter what kind of conditions exist on a site, there is an ornamental grass that is suitable.

What to look for...

Before purchasing ornamental grasses, check on the general health of the plant. Look for a grass that has colorful foliage and is not too dense, which indicates that the plant has already become pot-bound and might be difficult to establish if planted.

Check the root system if possible. It should hold the soil and be visibly healthy without being overcrowded. Choose a plant that has moist soil. Over-watered or dry soil puts stress on the plant. Even though many grasses tolerate such stress, they won't be in the best of health and may be more susceptible to pests as a result.

When purchasing grasses, keep in mind the ultimate height and spread of the plant, and whether it is suitable for the site. The information panel for each grass should indicate this information. If not, ask someone who works at the nursery or garden center.

When to plant...

You can plant ornamental grasses any time of year, however the best time for planting grasses is in the spring or fall. Regardless of when you decide to plant, make sure that the grass is well watered beforehand. When planted in a suitable site, the grass simply requires a little fertilizer initially to give it a boost, an application of mulch, and watering until it is established.

Where to plant...

Though there are a few ornamental grasses suitable for growing in shady and/or boggy sites, most prefer a good amount of exposure to direct sunlight and well-drained soil.

Ornamental grasses can be planted in the landscape or garden, and many are suitable for growing in pots. Potted grasses can be grown as single specimens or combined with other plants in larger containers, such as with flowering annuals around the edge. There are many sizes and shapes of containers. Whatever the shape of the pot you choose, make sure it is large enough to contain the grass and allow for more growth. Pot-bound grasses require frequent watering, as well as annual division and repotting.

Where to find ornamental grasses...

As ornamental grasses have increased in popularity, more nursery and garden centers are stocking them. You can use the Plant Search on Gardenality to find ornamental grasses that grow well in your area. If you can't find the ornamental grass you're looking for at a local garden center there are many online stores that carry them. You can buy ornamental grasses from, an online store that my nursery ships for.

Click on the link below for instructions and tips for planting ornamental groundcovers

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