Ornamental grasses are available in dozens of varieties with varying foliage colors, flower colors, growth habits and hardiness. Many are hardy in Minnesota, even in the pockets of USDA Hardiness Zone 3 in the northernmost reaches of the state. Use ornamental grasses in the perennial border, in a border of mixed perennial grasses, as single specimens or as a living fence.
Also called Korean feather reed grass, fall blooming reedgrass (Calamagrostis brachytricha) is a showy, hardy ornamental grass. It grows about 30 inches high and forms a mounded clump. In fall it produces tall, feathery-looking pink plumes. This grass can be grown in full sun in Minnesota, but should be grown in light or partial shade in warmer southern climates.
Blue oatgrass (Helictotrichon sempervirens) is an ornamental grass that is native to Europe. It takes a clump-forming growth pattern and grows about 2 feet high and 3 feet wide. It produces pale blue flowers in midsummer on 4-foot stems, although these will not be as tall in shorter season northern areas. Its bluish coloring makes it a welcome addition to the perennial border, contrasting nicely with foliage and flowers of flowering perennials. Although blue oatgrass dies down to its roots in the cold winters of Minnesota, it is evergreen in areas with mild winters.
Giant miscanthus (Miscanthus floridulus 'Giganteus') is also called giant Chinese silver grass. It grows from 10 to 14 feet high with glossy green leaves that have a silver-white stripe. Its flowers are reddish-brown and are held about 24 inches above the foliage on bamboo-like stems with a diameter of up to 2 inches. Plant miscanthus in the back of the perennial border or use as a fence or to screen an unsightly view. Miscanthus keeps its foliage all winter long and is a welcome addition to the winter landscape.