Ornamental grasses, with their interesting foliage, can be a beautiful and low-care choice for those areas of your landscape that are in the shade. Many ornamental grasses do not need a lot of sunlight because they do not have showy flowers. In fact, some shade-loving ornamental grass plants have foliage that will burn when exposed to too much sunlight. On the other hand, some ornamental grasses do thrive in hot, dry conditions, so choose carefully when purchasing ornamental grass plants or seeds.
Hakonechloa Macra 'Aureola'
Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' is commonly called Japanese forest grass. It is a hardy grass that does well in USDA growing zones 5 to 9. The plant features showy, long, variegated leaves that gracefully dip to one side. The slim leaves are colored in shades of green and gold. Japanese forest grass thrives in moist, shady conditions. It grows up to 2 feet tall and 2 feet wide.
Carex Elata 'Aurea'
Carex elata 'Aurea,' more commonly called Bowles golden, is a variety of sedge. It is a cool-climate, clumping sedge that will not spread but rather remain in a neat mound. In the spring, it features bright lime-green leaves. This ornamental grass prefers shady conditions and moist, well-drained soil. It can grow up to 2 feet tall.
Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) is a popular ornamental grass for its ability to tolerate both sunny and shady conditions. It is a warm-climate grass, hardy to USDA growing zone 5. Northern sea oats is a clumping grass and will form a mound about 3 feet tall. The leaves are similar to bamboo leaves and are an attractive dark, glossy green color in the spring, changing to a copper color after the first autumn frost. In the summer, graceful flowers featuring attractive seed heads emerge from the leaves. Although the plant does not spread by rhizomes like some other ornamental grasses, it does self-seed successfully, so prune off the seed heads in early fall if you don't want the plant to spread.
Korean feather reed grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha) is desirable for its 4-foot-tall feathery flowers. These lacy flowers, which are pink in the summer and fade to cream in the fall, are frequently used in flower arrangements. The bright green leaves of this ornamental grass set off the flowers nicely, and it is one of the rare ornamental grasses that has showy flowers and thrives in shade.