Ornamental Grasses

Using grasses in design and landscapes has become a popular choice over the past few years. They can create a nice modern feel to any yard or patio. Great planted in the ground (a must to over-winter perennial grasses) or in containers.

Annual Grasses

 Common Name    Botanical Name    Description  
Leatherleaf Sedge Carex buchananii  Brown grass grows 1-2' in height
Variegated Japanese Sedge Carex oshimensis  Low cascading grass with bright green and cream variegation
Pampas grass Cortaderia selloana  Tall (can reach 10'), bluish-green leaves, with large flower head plumes
Umbrella grass (Baby Tut) Cyperus involucratus Green water garden friendly plant with umbrella-like foliage. 1.5-2' *Neutral grass
Papyrus (King Tut) Cyperus papyrus Tall 5-6' upright plant, with large spikelet flowers. *Neutral grass
Fiber Optic grass Isolepis cernua  Low-growing (sometimes cascading) green grass with small fluffy flowers at the ends
Corkscrew Rush Juncus effusus Spiraling (mostly up or outward) green foliage. 1' height
Blue Rush Juncus inflexus 3' bluish-green foliage
Millet Milium effusum  Green, flat, broad leaves. Dense Cattail-like head on top. 1-2'
Purple Fountain grass Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum'  Nodding purple plumes over dark purple-bronze and green foliage. 3' height 
Purple Millet Pennisetum glucum  Broad, flat, deep purple foliage. Dense purple Cattail-like head. 3-6'


*Neutral grasses: these plants are not actually classified as grasses but still look like them (and deserve to be mentioned)

Perennial Grasses 

 Common Name    Botanical Name    Description   Spreading/Clumping 
 Big Bluestem  Andropogon geradii  Blue-green foliage, some varieties turn purple in mid-summer. 5' height  Clumping
 Bulbous Oat Grass Arrhenatherum   Deep green foliage with white margins. 12" height Spreading
 Feather Reed Grass  Calamagrostis x acutiflora  Variegated varieties, light brown seedheads above foliage. 3-4' height Clumping
 Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass  Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'  Tall (5'), green foliage turning light brown in late fall/winter. Light brown seedheads. Straight upright habit Clumping
 Tufted Hair Grass Deschampsia cespitosa 'Northern Lights'   White and green variegation. White darkens to orange-pink in cool temperatures. 2' height Clumping 
 Blue Fescue Festuca glauca   Short intense blue mounding grass. 12" height  Clumping
 Blue Oat Grass Helictotrichon sempervirens   Coarse blue-grey foliage. 1.5-3' height  Clumping
 Sweetgrass Hierochloe odorata   Native to North America. Green foliage. 2' height  Spreading (May become invasive)
 Orange Flame Grass Miscanthus sinensis 'Purpurascens' Geen foliage that turns bright orange fall. 5-6' height  Spreading
 Moor Grass Molinia caerulea   Green foliage with purple seedheads that turn to brown. 2' height  Clumping
Switch Grass Panicum virgatum  Upright grass with seed heads later in summer/fall. 3-6' height  Clumping
Ribbon Grass Phalaris arundinacea  Variegated white and green foliage that turns pinkish in cool weather. 2' height  Spreading (May become invasive)
Little Bluestem Schizachyrium scoparium  Blue foliage with fluffy seedheads. 3' height.  Clumping


In general, perennial grasses need a lot of sun. The best grass option for a shady area is ribbon grass. Grasses need a lot of water- especially in their first year until established, and planting them in dry areas should be avoided.