Variegated ornamental grasses make interesting focal points or accents in the landscape. The patterns of green, cream, gold, bluish gray or silver attract the eye, while the foliage moving in the wind creates a pleasing sound. The graceful, arching forms of variegated ornamental grasses can be used in perennial or shrub borders, as a seasonal screen, or in a mass planting.
Warm-season variegated ornamental grasses grow in the spring and summer, bloom in the fall and early winter, and then go dormant for rest of the season. Cool-season variegated ornamental grasses grow in early spring while the temperatures are cool. Their growth slows or they go dormant during the summer, and resume growing in cool fall weather.
Some variegated ornamental grasses grow in clumps that increase in circumference each year until they reach their mature size. Others spread by rhizomes or stolons and can be difficult to control or even invasive. Clumping forms grow 2 to 6 feet wide, while spreading types can multiply indefinitely. Variegated ornamental grasses range in height from 1 foot to over 15 feet tall, depending on the species and variety.
Numerous varieties of the Miscanthus species' ornamental grasses exist, such as ‘Morning Light’ with white margins and ‘Silberfeder’ with silvery midribs. Miscanthus ‘Strictus’ has gold horizontal bands and ‘Zebrinus’ has white bands.
Japanese Sedge (Carex morrowii) has gold and green foliage, while Tufted Hair Grass (Deschampsia caespitosa ‘Northern Lights’) has pink, white and gold foliage. Overdam Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Overdam’) and Variegated Bulbous Oat Grass (Arrhenatherum elatius bulbosum ‘Varigatum’) both have white variegated patterns.
Different species of variegated ornamental grasses require different growing conditions. Most grow in full sun, although some will grow in partial shade. Some species prefer dry soil, while others will grow in boggy areas. Variegated ornamental grasses can be planted after the date of the last predicted frost in the spring until 6 weeks before the date of the first predicted frost in the fall. Plant them at the same depth as they were in the pot. A layer of mulch helps retain moisture and stabilizes the temperature of the soil. Do not "mound" the mulch up around the foliage of a clumping type of grass.
Cut variegated ornamental grasses back to 3 to 6 inches tall in the spring before new growth begins. Wear gloves and bundle the grass together with a rope, bungee cord or duct tape before cutting it with hedge shears, trimmers or a weedeater.