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

Read more about switchgrass.

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

Read more about blue fescue.

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

Read more about little bluestem.

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.

2 Comments

  1. It would be helpful if, in addition to giving growing zones, you would also note where plants are native. Especially when looking at plants to be wildlife food sources, native is best. Thanks!

  2. Wonderful guide to grasses. Could you advise on grasses for part shade or even full shade?


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