Ornamental Grass: Adding Style and Elegance

Different types of ornamental grasses all in bloom with different coloured plumes.


There are many varieties of ornamental grass you can use in your landscape. Whether tall or short, warm or cool season, they add texture and style to your landscape.

Choosing a variety to add to your garden depends on a few things.

  • Where you want to put it (sun vs shade)
  • Do you want tall or short ornamental grass?
  • Do you want something colourful or something with vertical strips?
  • What about spreading by clump forming or underground runners
  • Which ones look best in containers

These are all things to think about before you purchase these showy plants.



Warm season vs Cool season grasses
What's the difference?

Warm Season

  • They love the hot, dry summer and start growing when the night time temps. stay above freezing in late spring.
  • warm season grasses don't like to be disturbed when their roots are cold so dividing them in late spring is perfect.
  • They won't get their plumes until well into summer up until the first frost.

Cool Season

  • Cool season grasses love the cooler weather and start to grow as soon as the weather stays above freezing during the day.
  • It's best to divide them in spring and fall as it's hard on them if divided when it's to hot.
  • They start to get their plumes in early summer and hold them through winter..

Mixing both warm and cool season grasses is a good idea for having interest from mid spring until late fall.

Ornamental Grass: Adding Height to Your Garden

Growing 5' and above they are perfect for adding height to your gardens. They also make great privacy barriers or windbreakers.


Karl Foerster (Calamagrostis x acutiflora)

tall green ornamental grass with tan coloured plumes

This feather reed grass has dramatic red-bronze plumes early to midsummer and will beautify your garden year after year. 

This is one of the cool season grasses so dividing in the spring or fall is preferred.

It can handle full sun to part shade and will grow in any soil type, including sand and clay.


Flame Grass (Miscanthus sinensis var. purpurascens)

tall green ornamental grass with large white plumes

Growing to about 5-6' tall, it turns a brilliant reddish orange in fall after a long hot summer. It likes to stay moist during the summer but not water logged and loves full sun.

It's a warm season grass so dividing should be done when new growth starts to appear in mid to late fall.


Sweet Flag (acorus gramineus)

Long blades of ornamental grass with plume

An easy to grow perennial that likes wet areas. Growing Sweet Flag adds a brighter yellow-green to your gardens. When the leaves are crushed it gives off a sweet scent.

It's a warm season grass.


Ornamental Grass for Ground Cover

These ornamental grasses stay on the shorter side of under 5'. They are perfect for ground cover or adding colour to your landscape and they are low-maintenance. 


Elijah Blue Fescue (Festuca glauca 'Elijah Blue')

small blue wispy grass growing in a garden

One of the bluest Fescues grasses and only getting about 8" tall, it looks best in mass planting. It will thrive in full sun or part shade and is also drought tolerant.

It's a cool season grass so only divide in spring and fall.


Bearskin Fescue (Festuca gautieri)

Tightly compact green round ball-shaped grass

This very short (2-6") Fescue will look great in a rock garden along sedums, succulents and dwarf evergreens.

It loves full sun and part shade and does really well in heat and drought.

It's another cool season grass so remember to divide in spring or fall.


Japanese Blood Grass (Imperata cylindrica 'Red Baron')

Striking short red blades of grass

One of the best grasses for adding colour to your garden, it grows to about 18" tall and has remarkable green leaves with red tips. 

Another cool season grass that like moist, well drained soil.


Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides)

Tall wisps of grass with white plumes

One of the most graceful looking grasses you can put in your gardens. 2-3' tall, it will grow in any soil type as long as it's well draining.

It's is a warm season grower so only divide it in late spring and summer.


Hameln Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hameln')

green ornamental grass with white plumes

A dwarf among fountain grasses, it only gets 20-30" tall so it's great for using in smaller gardens.

It loves full sun to light shade and because it's a warm season grass, it like to be divided in late spring once the soil warms up and it begins to grow.


Bowles' Golden Sedge (Carex elata ‘Aurea’)

With bright yellow blades that carry through out the season, it will brighten your shade gardens but also does excellent in full sun. It does very well in wet to moist soil.

It's a cool season grower so it thrives in spring and fall.


Gray's Sedge (Carex grayi)

Green ornamental grass with spiky star shaped flowers

Another plant that does well in moist areas, Gray's Sedge has flower spikes that are round and spiky. It will grow to about 2-2.5' tall in full sun to part shade.

This Cool season grass will also grow around Black Walnut trees.


So if you are going to be landscaping with ornamental grasses, these are some great options.


Tall brownish blades of grass with white plumes on top, small row of white flowers along the bottom of the grasses with very tall evergreen trees in the background.

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