Types of Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses are usually grown for their attractive appearance rather than their ground covering abilities. Unlike a basic green lawn grass, ornamental grasses provide height and depth to a garden, as well as unique colors and textures. When utilized well, ornamental grass looks great on its own and can provide backdrop to help enhance other plants in the garden.

Zebra Grass

Zebra grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus'), also called zebra maiden grass, is an exotic-looking ornamental that has striped creamy white and green culms (stems). The high-growing, clumping plant is a popular ornamental in part because of its hardiness. Zebra grass grows in both full and partial shade, preferring soils that are fertile and well-drained (although it will tolerate a variety of soils). The grass produces small flowers and is relatively pest- and disease-free.

Fountain Grass

With dramatic plumes and long green culms, fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum) is a popular ornamental for those wishing to add height and depth to a garden. Fountain grass is notoriously hardy, able to withstand a number of different soil types. The grass is extremely drought-tolerant and will grow in full sun or partial shade. It can be difficult to control the spread of the grass, which can seed itself in especially warm climates.

Mexican Feather Grass

Native to the prairies and rocky slopes of Texas, New Mexico and Mexico, Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima) is a sun-loving ornamental that produces long, thin, green and silver culms. The clumping grass seeds easily and is good for gardeners who don't mind if the grass takes over a fair portion of the yard. The grass produces greenish clusters of flowers which add an attractive decorative element. Mexican feather grass is excellent for those who want to add a little life to their garden--the culms wave at even the slightest breeze. Mexican feather grass is highly drought-tolerant and will grow in full sun or partial shade in well-drained soils.

Keywords: ornamental grasses, grass types, ornamental plants

About this Author

Michelle Wishhart is a writer based out of Astoria, Ore. She has been writing professionally for five years, starting with her position as a staff arts writer for an alternative weekly paper in Santa Cruz. She has a B.A. in fine arts from the University of California in Santa Cruz and a minor in English literature.