Gently swaying in the breeze, Ornamental Grasses add an accent to your landscape unmatched by any tree or shrub. Here in the Midwest, especially, they are part of the ‘Prairie’ Heritage and natural landscape. Grasses as a group, are well suited to our difficult summer and winter extremes in exposed locations. Grasses have been popular landscape plants as well as container plants in cycles over the last 150 years. The varieties we enjoy today are from other temperate zones around the globe, but are generally warm season, ‘clump-forming’ grasses that will not become invasive in our smaller planting beds today. Many of the warm season varieties we enjoy today are from the Miscanthus, Panicum, Pennisetum, Calamagrostis, Helictotrichon and Festuca families. These grasses can range from 8” Festuca Elijiah Blue to a 5-7’ Miscanthus Gracillamus, probably one of the most graceful grasses available. For shadier locations, we have varieties of Carex and Acorus that are more in the sedge family and tolerate Part Sun to Shade. Carex Evergold and Bowles Golden are especially fine textured and wonderful accents in a planting bed of hostas. Sizes will range from 12”- 24” on average.
Selecting Ornamental Grasses
When selecting grasses for your planting sites, as with other plants, know the sun available as well as drainage conditions. Grasses such as Festucas and Helictotrichons require Full sun and excellent drainage making them well suited to berm and wall plantings. Panicum Red Switch and Miscanthus varieties, Porcupine, Maiden and Morning Light are especially tolerant of damp to wet areas in full Sun and will do well in swale areas, drainage areas and rain gardens. The Carex and Acorus are also tolerant of damp areas and especially nice around ponds and bog gardens as well.
Planting and General Care of Ornamental Grasses
If planting in a new housing area and heavy clay soil is present, prepare the planting bed by adding 1-2.2 cu.ft. bag of sphagnum peat and 5# Sustane fertilizer per 100 square feet of bed. Till in to 12-18” depth.
Dig the hole twice the size of the root ball. Plant at the same growing depth as container,
Backfill ½ way, water, finish backfill and water thoroughly.
Mulch all grass & perennial plantings 2-3” deep with wood mulch.
Water new plantings every 10-14 days unless 1” of rain falls in a single rain. Deep watering is important. Established beds (3 seasons) need water every 10-14 days depending on soil conditions and weather.
Early Spring: Cut down ornamental grasses to 6-8”. Dwarf varieties 2-4”. Be sure to do this late March-early April as birds will often use them for nesting.
Varieties of Ornamental Grasses available at Meyer Landscape & Design in 2006 are:
- ‘Elijiah Blue’ Fescue: 10-12”H. Rich blue, fine-textured blades. Semi-evergreen.
- Blue Oat ‘Sapphire’: 18-24”H. Bright steel blue leaves with small tan seed heads
- Carex ‘Bowles Golden’: 24”H Bright gold foliage with narrow green margins. Loves moisture.
- Carex ‘Evergold’: FS-PSh. 10-12”H. Bright yellow blades with green margins.
- Carex ‘Ice Dance’: 15-18” H. FS-Sh. Tolerant of damp conditions. Green with cream white margin.
- Dwarf Fountain ‘Hameln’: 12-18” H. Clumps of blue gray leaves & outward arching spikes of foxtail-like blooms. Cut flower.
- ‘El Dorado’ Feather reed: 4-5’H. Variegated Karl Forester. Narrow green blade with gold midrib.
- Erianthus: 10-12’ large feather plumes over graceful 5-6’ foliage.
- Fountain grass, ‘Karley Rose’:1-2’H. FS. Deep green leaves with rose-pink foxtail blooms.
- Fountain grass-‘Red Head’: 3-4’H. FS. Green blades with deep purple buds opening to smokey plumes.
- ‘Karl Forester’ Reed: 3-4’ H. upright green leaves with pinkish blooms may-June. Blooms mature to gold.
- ‘Little Dot’ Dwarf Porcupine: 3’H. FS-PSh. Spikey green blades with yellow bands and fine texture.
- Maiden ‘Fern Osten’: 4-6’H. FS. Compact green foliage with bright silver mid-rib. Deep wine plumes fade to cream as weather cools.
- Maiden miscanthus: 5-6’H. Upright, finely textured green blades with cream beige plumes in September.
- Maiden ‘Morning Light’: 3-5’H. FS. Narrow leaves with fine green & white variegation. Plumes emerge bronze-red & age to cream late in the season.
- Maiden Graziella’: 5-6’H. FS. Silvery blooms over green foliage often turns red in Fall.
- Maiden ‘Nippon’: 4-5’H. FS. Early blooming variety with green foliage often turning red in the fall.
- Maiden ‘Purple’ or ‘Flame’:3-4’H. FS. Green leaves turn to pumpkin orange in Fall with cream blooms.
- Northern Sea Oats: 3-5’H. FS-PSh. Bamboo-like foliage with silver green oat-like blooms in Jn.
- ’Red Switch’: 4-5’H. FS. Green foliage that turns burgundy in Fall with feathery pink plumes.
- Striped Eulalia: 4-6’H. FS. Clean green & white striped leaves. Aug-Sept. blooms.
- Sweet flag, ‘Golden Pheasant’: 12-14”H. FS-PS. Narrow, strap-like brilliant gold leaves
- Keep their color all season. New foliage is chartreuse and will attain best color in FS.
Companion Perennials to Ornamental Grasses
Companion perennials to compliment your grass plantings are full sun-part sun plants that will be tolerant of drier conditions once established.
- Anemone Robustissima
- Artemesia Silver Mound
- Asclepias Ballerina-tolerates damp
- Aster Alert, Purple Dome or Wood’s Light Blue
- Buddleia Guinevere, Honeycomb or Pink Delight
- Centaurea Mountain Bluet or Rosea
- Cerastium Yo-Yo
- Caryopteris Petite Blue
- Coreopsis Moonbeam, Sterntaler, Sunray or Zagreb
- Daisy,(Shasta) Aglaia, Alaska, Becky or Sunnyside Up.
- Daisy Clara Curtis or Robinson’s Hyb.
- Daylily of any color with rebloomers Stella d’Oro, Happy Returns, Pardon Me, Rosey Returns, Siloam Plum Tree or Mini Stella.
- Dianthus Brilliant Star, Firewitch or Spangled Star.
- Echinacea Magnus, Little Giant, Ruby Star, Sunrise, Sunset or white Swan
- Eupatorium Chocolate
- Gaillardia Bijou, Fanfare, Goblin, Burgundy or Tokajer
- Gaura Crimson Butterflies
- Geranium Biokovo, Brookside, Guiseppi, Johnson Blue, Max Frei or Wargrave Pink
- Helopsis Summer Sun
- Hibiscus Fantasia or Turn of the Century
- Iris Bearded and Siberian
- Lavender Munstead
- Liatris Floristan White or Kobold
- Lilies, select heights to compliment grasses used.
- Monarda Jacob Cline, Petite Delight or Pink Supreme
- Nepeta Blue Wonder or subsessilis
- Penstemon Elfin Pink, Husker Red or Nana Rondo
- Peony Kansas, Pink Hawaiian Coral, Seashell or Sorbet
- Perovskia Little Spire
- Phlox Nicky, Baby Face, David or Eye Catcher
- Physostegia Miss Manners or Pink Bouquet
- Roses Betty Boop, Hot Cocoa, Cherry Parfait, Starry Nights, Carefree Sunshine or Knock-out Red or Pink.
- Rudbeckia Goldsturm
- Salvia May Night, Plumosa or Snow Hill
- Sedums ground covers or tall-Neon and Purple Emperor.
- Sidalcea Partygirl
- Stachys Helen von Stein
- Veronica Crater Lake Blue, Fairytale or Sunny Border Blue
- Yarrow Credo, Moonshine, Paprika or Weser River Sandstone
Shrubs to compliment Ornamental Grasses
- Barberry Crimson Pygmy, Golden or Rosey Glow
- False Cypress Sungold
- Juniper Blue Star, Gold Coast or Sierra Spreader
- Ninebark Summer Wine
- Potentilla Abbottswood White or Goldfinger
- Rose of Sharon Lavender Chiffon, Helene, Lucy or Aphrodite
- Spirea Anthony Waterer, Goldflame, Gold Mound, Neon or Snow White
- Weigela Minuet, Wine and Roses or Red Prince
- Yucca Ivory Tower