How to Garden with Ornamental Grasses


The use of ornamental grasses in the home landscape offers gardeners a low-maintenance foliage option. Grasses create dramatic impact in landscape design. These plants can stand alone beautifully or serve as frames for flowering annuals, perennials, shrubs or trees. Learning how to garden with ornamental grasses begins at the soil level. These easy care plants will thrive in a garden with proper preparation before planting.

Step 1

Select a location for the ornamental grass that provides adequate sunlight, proper drainage and soil conditions based on individual plant needs. Like other landscape plants, ornamental grasses don't tolerate neglect. Placement must match the plant's needs for successful growth.

Step 2

Turn over the soil using a spade shovel or tiller to a depth of 18 inches. Break up the soil and smooth it to an even layer with a rake. Perennial grasses benefit from loosened soil to promote root spreading after transplant.

Step 3

Amend the soil with compost, peat moss or soil conditioner. Pour enough soil conditioner on the garden surface to blend 20 to 30 percent organic amendments with the existing soil. If you're planting grasses in an existing garden, cultivate an area at least 3 feet around the chosen planting site. Add amendments and blend into the soil to provide an organically rich growing location.

Step 4

Consult the planting label provided with the plant to determine the mature spread of the plant. Allow plenty of room in the chosen location to allow the ornamental grass to grow freely, including the waterfall effect of mature draping foliage. Most grasses prefer a location with partial sun of three to five or more hours each day.

Step 5

Clip away the plastic transplant container using pruning shears. Spray a moderate stream of water at the plant roots to loosen the tightly packed soil.

Step 6

Dig a hole deep enough to place the top of the root ball 1-inch below the surface soil level. Sit the plant firmly in the hole and fill in with amended soil. Firm around the planting site with your hands and ensure that no indentation exists around the newly planted grass. Mulch around the ornamental grass to conserve water and restrict weed growth.

Step 7

Turn the garden hose on to a light trickle and water around the base of the grass. Allow water to absorb slowly into the soil for deep penetration to benefit the grass roots.

Step 8

Allow foliage to die off naturally during the winter. Prune back dead foliage in the early spring to allow room for new shoots to grow freely. Remove and discard old foliage to discourage center dead spots that may detract from the bunch-like growing nature of the ornamental grass.

Step 9

Apply granulated fertilizer, 10-10-10, after pruning in the spring to replace lost nutrients. Do not over fertilize ornamental grasses since this practice results in rampant growth causes the plant to lie flat on the ground.

Things You'll Need

  • Compost, peat moss or soil conditioner
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Pruning shears
  • Mulch
  • Garden hose
  • Pruning loppers
  • Hedge clippers (optional)
  • Fertilizer


  • Smithsonian Institution: Ornamental grasses
  • Colorado State: Ornamental grrasses
  • University of Rhode Island: Ornamental grasses
Keywords: gardening ornamental grasses, ornamental grass care, ornamental grass

About this Author

S.F. Heron is an avid gardener with three years of experience in online writing and a working background in aviation and earth and ocean sciences. She is published on various sites, including Helium, eHow and Xomba. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.