The Beauty of Ornamental Grasses

Give your garden four seasons of interest with low-maintenance grasses.


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Hare's Tale Grass
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Hare's Tail

    (Lagurus ovatus)

    This diminutive, delicate grass makes up in charm what it lacks in stature. It grows to just 18 inches but bears adorable, fuzzy "bunny tail" flower heads most of the season. Zones 9-10.

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Pampasgrass

    (Cortaderia selloana 'Pumila')

    This beauty's 6-foot-tall blooms coincide with those of Russian sage and black-eyed Susan for a lovely contrast of texture, height, and color. Zones 7-10.

    Note: Pampasgrass is a noxious weed in some areas. Check local restrictions before planting it.

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Fall Duet

    Eulaliagrass (Miscanthus sinensis, Zones 4-9) and purple fountaingrass (Pennisetum setaceum 'Purpureum', Zones 9-10) appear luminescent in the late-summer sun.

    Note: Eualiagrass is a weed in some areas. Check local restrictions before planting it.

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Northern Sea Oats

    (Chasmanthium latifolium)

    This 3-foot-tall grass features drooping flat flower spikes (resembling oats) and bamboolike foliage. Zones 5-9.

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Bloodgrass

    (Imperata cylindrica 'Rubra')

    Japanese bloodgrass forms loose clumps up to 16 inches tall, with deep red leaves. The fluffy, white seed heads appear in late summer. Zones 4-9.

    Note: Japanese bloodgrass is a noxious weed in some areas. Check local restrictions before planting it.

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Giant Reedgrass

    (Arundo donax 'Variegata')

    This behemoth of the grass world can reach 10 to 15 feet tall, so it's not for every yard. However, its unique architecture and variegated leaves are striking. Zones 7-10.

    Note: Giant reedgrass is a noxious weed in some areas. Check local restrictions before planting it.

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Zebragrass

    (Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus')

    Zebragrass is a cultivar of eulaliagrass with distinctive horizontal bars on its leaves. It is a favorite of gardeners everywhere it's hardy. Give full sun and room to grow, for it can easily become 6 feet tall. Zones 4-9.

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Switchgrass

    (Panicum virgatum 'Northwind')

    This cultivated relative of native prairie grasses grows to 5 feet tall and features narrow plumes in fall. Zones 5-9.

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Grasses in the Border

    In a border containing several varieties of grasses, balance upright varieties, such as eulaliagrass (Miscanthus sinensis, Zones 4-9, shown at right), with rounded types such as fountaingrass (Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hameln', Zones 6-9, bottom left).

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Grasses with Perennials

    Grasses pair well with perennials and shrubs in the garden. Here, purple garden phlox provides a vivid backdrop for feather reedgrass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Overdam', Zones 5-9).

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Hakonechloa

    (Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola') This low, clump-forming grass may reach just 10 inches. Its yellow foliage turns red in fall (shown here), at which time its narrow seed heads appear. Zones 5-9.

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Purple Millet

    (Pennisetum glaucum 'Purple Majesty') For a quick shot of color and a strong vertical accent, rely on purple millet. The deep purple foliage and bottlebrush seed heads create a unique look. The narrow, upright, plant may reach 3 to 5 feet. Annual.

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