How to Plan for Ornamental Grasses


Creating a low-maintenance landscape requires careful planning to select compatible plants and garden sites. Gardeners use ornamental grasses as an easy-to-grow plant to accent existing perennials and annuals. Ornamental grasses thrive in the same soil conditions as most common ornamental landscape plants. This allows gardeners to blend plants with different foliage and growing habits. Learning how to plan for adding ornamental grasses to your property requires research and proper planting techniques.

Step 1

Examine your landscape plan for locations that will benefit from ornamental grasses. Look for blank spots, sloped areas, large gaps, or neglected areas. These sites may provide the perfect spot for adding ornamental grasses.

Step 2

Decide on available space in the garden and note this information on your landscape plan. Planning for ornamental grasses requires the same careful selection based on size and shape as a traditional herbaceous perennial. Mature height and width dictates placement in the landscape.

Step 3

Evaluate the location for available sunlight and compatibility with existing landscape plants. Full sun grasses tolerate direct light exposure all day. Partial sun/shade grasses need four to six hours of sun each day. Shade-tolerant grasses thrive in lower-light gardens featuring filtered sunshine or reflected light. Pair plants with similar light requirements together in the landscape.

Step 4

Collect a soil sample from the planting site for analysis at the nursery. Most existing flowerbeds haven't been amended with soil conditioners since the creation of the garden bed. Soil quality greatly affects the appearance of foliage-heavy ornamental grass.

Step 5

Assess the drainage in the proposed spot. Ornamental grasses require good drainage for a successful planting. Pooling water from downspouts or puddles from hoses will stunt the growth of the grass. Ornamental grasses need about 1 inch of water each week.

Step 6

Evaluate the best type of ornamental grass for the location. Grasses encompass a wide variety of growth styles. Low-lying clumps work well as ground cover or as individual plants in a small or border garden. Mid-height grasses have an upright growth habit that either remains upright or spreads slightly at the top. Very tall ornamental grasses either grow upright or arch outward. Select the style that best suits the landscape site based on mature height and width, as well as ability to blend with existing landscape plants.

Step 7

Check into the flowering time for each type of grass. Unlike regular ornamental plants, grasses produce different kinds of flowers. These blooms tend to be plumes or feather-like flowers instead of the traditional buds seen on other plants. Flowers also add considerable height to some types of ornamental grasses, so figure this added dimension into your landscape plan.

Things You'll Need

  • Landscape plan
  • Plastic container


  • Colorado State University: Ornamental Grass
  • University of Florida: Considerations for Use and Selection of Ornamental Grasses
Keywords: ornamental grass, using ornamental grass, planning 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.