Kristina R.

Ornamental Grass to Choose for Your Garden: A Simple Guide

 Blog  •  Published on: 05 Mar 2022

In gardens and home landscapes, ornamental grasses are valued for their structure, hardiness, ease of care, and multi-season ability, even in harsh conditions. They bring beauty and a sense of tranquility while lending a natural view to a landscape or garden thanks to their color and fine structure, which appears decorative almost all year round. Coming in a variety of appearances, seedheads, shapes, colors, sizes, and visual impacts, there are many varieties of ornamental grass to choose from. Let’s look at some of the factors involved in choosing ornamental grass for your garden.

Why Ornamental Grass

Most ornamental grasses are perennials, which can give your garden the extended beauty you desire. Unlike flowers that need intensive care, or evergreen trees and shrubs that take years to grow, ornamental grass grows rapidly. Most of them reach full size in as little as two seasons. This fast growth rate and carefree nature make them ideal for gardens, patio surroundings, or privacy hedges because new plants can quickly fill in any gaps.

You can also use ornamental grass as part of your green and environmentally friendly program in an office or rooftop setting to support your recycling efforts for a clean environment. If you want to find out or understand more about recycling and eco-friendliness, you can join the FRED Program (Food Residual Environmental Diversion) at Missouri Organic Recycling.

Identifying Ornamental Grass

Identifying ornamental grass to grow in your garden or yard requires precision and analysis. Usually, when choosing ornamental grass, consider your climate, garden colors, soil, and other garden preferences like texture and beauty. It’s also important to learn whether the ornamental grass you want tends to spread or grows in clumps to ensure it will fit in your garden or planting area. A good ornamental grass should do well in winter and much better in the summer. While far from green, most ornamental grasses tend to have attractive seed heads and graceful, arching stems.

The search for ornamental grass can be complicated by other look-alike true grass, such as sedges and rushes or shrubs like bamboo, which are equally applicable as ornamental plants. You need to collect as much information as possible about your garden and the types of outlook you want to give it before you settle on particular ornamental grasses.

Types of Ornamental Grasses to Choose From

Depending on the look you want, there are different types of ornamental grasses you can choose from based on their height, growth habits, season, weather or seasons, and more other selection criteria. The following are some of the types of ornamental grass you can choose from:

Growth habits: Clumping vs. spreading ornamental grasses

Spreading ornamental grass expands rapidly through their above-ground or underground stems. When painting them, you need to take care because they can overtake your garden’s desired outlook. Clumping or bunch ornamental grass grows in a clump or a bunch that gradually increases its diameter. Most of them are perennial.

Height: Short vs. tall ornamental grasses

Ornamental grass, like all other plants, varies in height. There are tall ornamental grasses that reach up to 15 feet tall, like Zebra grass. Often people use tall ornamental grasses for privacy in hedges. There are also lower-growing or short ornamental grasses often used as ground covers. Depending on why you’re planting the grass, height is a factor when making your choice.

Seasons: Cool or warm season ornamental grasses

Cool-season ornamental grasses begin new growth in winter or fall and usually bloom in spring or early summer. The summer heat can often make them go dormant, dull, or decline in appearance. Warm-season ornamental grasses grow well during the summer and withstand its heat. Usually, they grow rapidly during summer and spring, bloom in late summer or fall, and stay dormant throughout winter.

Ornamental grass for full sun

These grasses are warm-season varieties, love full sun, and thrive in it. The Pennisetum setaceum or African Fountain Grass is one of the main species of full sun ornamental grasses. They look stunning under the light but may need cutting back from time to time to encourage new growth.

Ornamental grasses for containers

These varieties do well in pots on your garden, indoors, or on your patio with a fabulous bobbing in a breeze. Examples of ornamental grasses for containers are lemongrass, carex, black lilyturf, bunny tails, and stipa. These grass can give a visual impact on your patio and pathways. 

Tips for Planting Ornamental Grasses

Perennials: Plant Giant feather grass (Stipa gigantea), which is attractive and has a broad shape with elegant stems. It will stay in your garden for 2 years or beyond.

Tall vs. short grasses: If you want to mix tall and short grasses, plant short varieties at the front and taller ones in the background. It will give a stunning outlook. Using grasses with varying heights brings a more dynamic feel to the garden.

Don’t be too linear: Mix linear grasses with larger ones to give the garden a more overall lively appearance.

Use combinations: Combine the grass varieties with foliage and those various shapes and colors. Varying the grasses' shapes, colors, and appearances in your garden gives the grasses a strong contrast.


Ornamental grass will do well almost anywhere. With a bit of care and maintenance, ornamental grass can give a great appeal to your garden. Mix a few colors with different decorative features to give your garden a warm feeling.


All notes