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6 Ornamental Grasses the Birds Love

Add ornamental grasses to your garden for multiseason color, texture, and food sources for a host of birds.

Switchgrass

Botanical name: Panicum virgatum

Requirements: Moist to dry soil and full sun.

Bird benefits: seeds feed them; dense foliage provides winter cover.

Gardener benefits: Vigorus plants are prized for their reddish-purple summer color that fades to tan in fall. Reseeding is a problem for some varieties in certain areas; cover exposed soil with a 3-inch layer of mulch to prevent clumps from spreading out of bounds.

Zones: 5-9

Size: 3-7 feet tall; 2-4 feet wide

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Blue Fescue

Botanical name: Festuca glauca

Requirements: Well-drained soil and full sun.

Bird benefits: Seeds feed them; foliage provides nesting material

Gardener benefits: Mound-forming, semievergreen plants have striking blue-green foliage, making them valuable accent plants. Drought-tolerant plants are a good choice for low-water landscapes.

Zones: 4-8

Size: 6-18 inches tall; 12-24 inches wide

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Little Bluestem

Botanical name: Schizachyrium scoparium

Requirements: Well-drained soil and full sun.

Bird benefits: Seeds feed them; foliage provides cover.

Gardener benefits: Drought-tolerant and slowly spreading, it is a good grass for naturalized areas and erosion control. Showy blooms make great cut flowers. Blue-green foliage turns dark red to purple in fall, then fades to tan in winter.

Zones: 5-9

Size: 2-3 feet tall; 1-2 feet wide

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Canadian Wild Rye

Botanical name: Elymus canadensis

Requirements: Full sun; will grow in any soil, dry or moist.

Bird benefits: Seeds feed them; foliage provides nesting materials.

Gardener benefits: The fastest growing of the prairie grasses, this species matures from seed the first or second year. Suits a variety of tough landscaping situations, including sand and clay, where nothing else will grow. Beautiful dropping seed heads.

Zones: 3-8

Size: 4-6 feet tall; 24 inches wide

Indiangrass

Botanical name: Sorghastrum nutans

Requirements: Well-drained or moist soil and full sun.

Bird benefits: Seeds are favored by many songbirds; foliage provides cover.

Gardener benefits: Dark orange or purple foliage in fall lights up the garden. It has brown flowers in late summer. Lush, upright habit makes a good screen. Dense roots can hinder erosion.

Zones: 5-8

Size: 4-6 feet tall; 2-3 feet wide

Tufted Hairgrass

Botanical name: Deschampsia cespitosa

Requirements: Moist soil and full or part shade

Bird benefits: Seeds feed them; foliage provides nesting material.

Gardener benefits: Arching, dark green leaves give this easy-to-grow perennial a waterfall appearance, which is striking in a mixed plant border. Large colorful flowers decorate the plant May through August. It's an excellent ornamental grass for part-shade locations.

Zones: 5-9

Size: 2-3 feet tall; 2-3 feet wide

Read more about tufted hairgrass.


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