Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →

Ornamental Grasses for Borders

lawn and border bed image by TMLP from

In a garden or landscaping project, borders are plant beds placed in front of walls, hedges, fences, larger flower beds and decks, to add visual interest or to provide a screen. Grass is a natural choice for borders not only because there are many varieties available to fit any design scheme, but grass is also a low maintenance plant, very easy to care for. Furthermore, grass can be used either alone or in conjunction with other plants in a border, which is known as a mixed border. Select plants that work well in the growing zone in which they will be planted.

Low-Growing Grasses

Low-growing grasses are especially suited for borders because their small size allows gardeners to layer the plants for maximum effect. According to Richard Bird, author of "The Border Planner," good choices for low-growing grasses include perennial quaking grass, blue Magellan grass, Bowles garden grass and ribbon grass.

Medium-Sized Grasses

Medium-sized grasses have a height range of 12 to 30 inches and can be used in beds to add texture and to pull the eye into a border, according to Marsha Jahns, author of "Step-By-Step Ornamental Grasses." Suitable medium-sized grasses include meadow foxtail grass; hakone grass, a slow spreading grass; purple moor grass, whose leaves grow in clumps; and white-flowered fountain grass, which has narrow, flat leaves and plumed seed heads on the stem ends.

Tall Grasses

In borders, tall grasses can be used as screens or as a background plant, according to the authors of “Ornamental Grass Gardening.” Tall grasses to consider include giant reed grass, which is suited for use near ponds; pampas grass, which features white feathery plumes; spiky-leafed Japanese silver grass; and feather grass, which needs full sun and is suited for well-drained soil.

Ways To Get Rid Of Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses are not the typical bluegrasses or other varieties that you may use to create your lawn. Pampas and Ravenna grasses are common ornamental varieties. A common problem is removing these plants. Ornamental grasses have complicated root bundles that intertwine and spread, making it difficult to dig them up. Start by cutting off the stalks close to the base. Get a sharp shovel and separate the grass into several sections. If ornamental grasses are left too long without maintenance, they can grow too large and establish a large root base that can extend into the soil. Dig down deep with your shovel and remove the entire root mass. You may also want to spray the ground if you dug out a larger variety to discourage any missed shoots from growing back. To get rid of these, simply dig them out again. The new shoots may be annoying, but they will at least show where the roots are that you missed the first time around.

Garden Guides