Ornamental Grasses in Washington

Washington consists of a plant-growing climate that includes very rainy, mild areas to harsh, dry areas. The coastal areas of the state are influenced by the Pacific Ocean, and the mountain ranges create rain shadows that block the rainfall from the central part of the state. Ornamental grass is grown throughout the state. Different varieties hold desirable traits like drought tolerance, surviving excess moisture, holding their color year-round and a resistance to deer predation.

Blue Oatgrass

Blue oatgrass (Helictotrichon sempervirens) is a spiky ornamental grass that clumps. This cool season perennial grass grows to 2 1/2 feet tall in good-draining soil. It enjoys exposure to full sunlight. Small flowers appear in June and July. Blue oatgrass losses its blue color during the winter. Blue oatgrass is drought and deer resistant. This grass is commonly used as a groundcover and planted together in small groups.

Giant Feather Grass

Giant feather grass (Stipa gigantea) is also called golden oats for the golden colored flowers blooming in summer. This evergreen grass grows 2 feet tall with rolled blue-green leaves. Flower stalks reach 3 to 4 feet tall topped with gold feathery blooms. This grass requires a site with full sun exposure and tolerates coastal conditions with high winds. It is not an ornamental grass to plant in the wetter areas of Washington and needs protection from gophers who love its taste. Deer rarely eat giant feather grass. Use giant feather grass as a showcase plant and as an addition for cut flower bouquets.

Rattlesnake Grass

Rattlesnake grass (Briza media) is also known as perennial quaking grass. It is a cool season grass that forms clumps 12 to 18 inches tall. This ornamental grass produces soft green leaves and small, heart-shaped flowers in the spring. Rattlesnake grass thrives in full sun and does not blossom well in shady areas. It tends to go dormant when exposed to hot, dry weather. This grass quakes when the wind hits it. It is shade tolerant and deer resistant. It is commonly used as a groundcover, border plant and cut for dried flower arrangements.

Switch Grass

Switch grass (Panicum virgatum) grows 4 to 6 feet tall in full sun or partial shade. This bluish colored grass turns a reddish color in the fall. Switch grass thrives in both moist or dry soil. This ornamental grass produces dark red and purple flowers in the late summer, followed by shiny red seeds in the fall. Switch grass is often used to screen off undesirable views and is added to cut flower arrangements.

Keywords: Pacific Northwest grass, Washington ornamental grass, ornamental grass

About this Author

Karen Carter has spent the last three years working as a technology specialist in the public school system. This position included hardware/software installation, customer support, and writing training manuals. She also spent four years as a newspaper editor/reporter at the Willapa Harbor Herald.