Another landscaping tool that is enjoying a return to popularity is ornamental grass.
With that trend there also been an increase in development of new and improved grass types for the landscaper.
This selective breeding has resulted in more colorful plumes, hardier species and more varied colors, all these factors give the gardener many choices in both size and types. Many of these grasses can reach heights well over 6 feet or low growing types that are less than 12 inches in height.
I’m not going to describe all the various grasses but will provide links that will give the gardener a full and detailed description of many of the ornamental grasses being used in the yards and gardens throughout the country. Links to various sites that provide more information on ornamental grass.
This article will give you a short guide on growing habits and problems associated with some of these plants.
There are basically two types of ornamental grasses. The first is bunching, these plants expand slowly around the main crown. They are relatively non-evasive and they stay pretty much where they were planted. With time the bunch will continue to grow in diameter and there may be some spreading from their seeds but this doesn’t tend to be a great problem.
These plants are great in groups of different heights and colors, and as backgrounds for perennial flowers. I have seen them planted randomly in edging areas and I find it looks a bit odd due to the plants abrupt edges. This type of planting needs careful thought or the plantings will look like an after thought.
We have the second type of grass, which expands their area by ryhizomal growth. (underground roots that travel away from the main plant with each runner producing a new plant and then continuing on to produce more plants. Each plant will then grow and send root runners of their own.) There are varying degrease of this spreading pattern. There are grasses that have very short runners and these grow slowly in size, on the other end of this are grasses that can be a gardener nightmare invading the yard or garden with rampant uncontrollable spreading. Granted some Round-up would get rid the problem but it would also destroy the yard. This is one of those times when an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.
Even with these problems some of the spreading grasses can be great in filling in areas that you want to have little upkeep. With their drought resistance qualities they can be a useful tool for the homeowner with larger areas to fill or edges that need screening. One can use edging along areas you do not want the grass to enter. Each variety will have different depths of rhizome growth so a little research is needed on depths to place your barrier, root trimming can also be done to limit spread.
Most of the ornamental grasses have some type of spike or flowering head. They range from tall, delicate feathery plumage to tight colored seed heads that stand high. With plant growers propagating and developing these plants to bring out brighter colors in both the leaves and seed pike and more varieties in the flowering parts themselves, we have a huge choice of varieties to choose from.
Most ornamental grass needs fairly good soil with some mulching to really do well. About all they need is water and little else. Fertilizer is not generally recommended as it encourages the plant to grow fast and then it doesn’t have enough stem strength to handle the lush top growth. This will cause the plant to lay over.
There are varieties of ornamental grass that will fit into any gardening situation. Many varieties are drought resistant, tolerate wet conditions, or shade. Some are evergreen and others are variegated or have some underlying color. Choose well and you can have another landscaping choice that will result in a great looking yard.
General care for most varieties:
In late winter or early spring the old tops should be removed, this can be done with string trimmers or by hand if necessary. Ideally cut it as close to the ground as possible. This will help prevent center die off in the larger clumps.
Ornamental Grasses - Instructions for planting, care, and maintenance. Includes photos and descriptions of individual varieties.
Discussion and photos of grasses for cold climates.