Traditional ornamental grasses such as pampas grass and fountain grass require bright sunlight and low-water conditions to thrive in the home landscape. Very few grasses can tolerate deep shade without direct sunlight. Many varieties of ornamental grasses will thrive in partial shade conditions for use in a variety of landscaping conditions. Ornamental grasses for shade include various-sized grasses with each having the basic requirement of well-tilled, organic rich soil.
Northern Sea Oats
Northern sea oats top the list of ornamental grasses that prefer a shade planting environment. Sea oats grow 3 to 5 feet tall and feature wide leaves that taper to a thin tip like a blade of grass. Each stem produces multiple leaves of bright green staggered around the plant stem. Northern sea oats produce a unique seed-like flower that looks very similar to a tuft of wheat. Each flower stem produces multiple trailing bunches of oats. Sea oats grow in clumps and work very well in the winter landscape as the plant dies off for the winter.
Tufted Hair Grass
The look of tufted hair grass brings to mind a traditional vision of ornamental grass. This grass features thin, reed-like stems that grow in 20- to 36-inch-high clumps. Tufted hair grass produces fernlike flowers with wispy fine petals similar to those seen with traditional fountain grasses. Plume color ranges from gold to a dark purple and works well as a decorative addition to flower arrangements. Tufted hair grass tolerates shade and evenly moist soil but it won't bloom regularly if placed in deep shade.
Japanese sedge serves as the perfect border plant in the shade garden. This plant features variegated white and green leaves. It has a low-mounding tendency and produces thin arching leaves flowing from the center of the plant. Sedge plants can grow up to 24 inches and have small flowers that may not be noticeable. Japanese sedge prefers well-drained soil and can tolerate full shade locations in the garden bed. Sedge has a draping, fountain-like growth tendency that adds flowing soft look to the landscape.
Korean Feather Reed Grass
This plant features darker colored leaves with feather-like plumage in golf or pink. Gardeners prize feather reed grass for its larger plumes. Feather reed grass grows more than 2 feet tall and prefers shady areas with good drainage. Soil should be kept moist for this clumping perennial plant. Korean feather reed grass provides a beautiful display of arching frond-like grass blades and will bloom readily in shady areas.