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8 Best Perennial Ornamental Grasses

8 Best Perennial Ornamental Grasses

Perennial ornamental grasses are an incredible addition to your landscaping for many reasons. They provide visual interest, many grow large and can fill empty spaces, and they return year after year.

Perennial ornamental grasses include Miscanthus, Pink Muhly Grass, and Pampas Grass, just to name a few. Whether you need a low growing variety or one that will aid in privacy, there’s an ornamental grass perfect for your landscape.

Perennial Ornamental Grasses

One of the main benefits to these perennial ornamental grasses is a simple fact that they are perennial.

Perennial – These plants live for 2 or more years. Their foliage may die back in the winter, but the roots do not die. They return each year.

Gardening and landscaping can be a lot of work and can get expensive. If you can choose a few perennial plants that need minimal care once established, you’ll not only save time but also money.

Uses for Perennial Ornamental Grasses

  • These perennial grasses can provide height and visual interest to a flower bed.
  • You can plant a row of a larger growing variety for a semi-private border on a walkway or between neighboring homes.
  • Many provide striking green foliage that will compliment your brightly colored annual flowers.
  • Several types of ornamental grass will remain a reasonable size so they won’t block out the sun to your other smaller plants.
  • Many are evergreen and will stay green year-round.
  • Most require very little maintenance once established so you can easily add them to borders, hillsides, beside your home, or other areas.

Pink Muhly Grass

how to grow pink muhly grass

This is one of my favorites. It’s gorgeous and has stunning pinkish-purple plumes of color. Pink Muhly Grass has a wispy delicate look and is a perfect match in a perennial flower garden. Read more about how to grow Muhly Grass here.

  • Zones 6-9
  • Drought tolerant
  • Heat tolerant
  • Prefers full sun, however, you can also grow this in partial shade.
  • Blooms with pink plumes of color in the fall
  • Grows to about 3-4 feet tall and wide

Pampas Grass

Perennial Ornamental Grasses - Pampas Grass

Particularly popular in Southern hot climates, you may have seen the huge stalks of Pampas Grass blowing in the wind. It’s considered invasive in some areas however, so check your local extension office before planting.

  • Zones 7-11
  • Needs sun to bloom, prefers hot climates
  • Leaves are razor sharp – do not try to pull or trim without sturdy gloves
  • Can grow fast and tall up to 8-14 feet high and can get 8-10 feet wide
  • You can divide it in the winter for more plants
  • Drought resistant once established, requires very little care
  • Deer resistant
  • Evergreen in warmer climates, leaves turn tan in cooler climates

Miscanthus

Perennial-Ornamental-Grasses-Miscanthus

Miscanthus (often called Maiden Grass) comes in several varieties. With varying sizes and some having silvery white plumes, there is an option for all spaces. It’s easy to grow and will get slightly smaller than Pampas Grass at full height/width. For more information on the different varieties, check out this guide.

  • Zones 5-10
  • Prefers full sun
  • Most species will be between 3 and 10 feet tall and 4-6 feet wide
  • Widely available from garden centers – plant in Spring and can also be divided in Spring
  • Drought tolerant once established
  • Deer resistant

Liriope

Liriope

If you’re looking for smaller perennial ornamental grasses, Liriope is a good option. Often called Monkey Grass, It is a grasslike groundcover that is hardy and easy to grow. Some varieties have purple or white flowers and the compact size makes it ideal for landscaping smaller areas and walkways.

  • Zones 6-10
  • Can grow in sun or shade
  • Grows to around 10-18 inches tall and spreads in clumps about 18 inches wide
  • Plants can be divided to yield more plants
  • Deer Resistant
  • Can be used along walkways, borders, or surrounding trees

Purple Fountain Grass

Perennial Ornamental Grasses - Purple Fountain Grass

Purple Fountain Grass is an interesting addition to your landscaping due to the striking purple hues of the leaves. In a sea of green leaves, it can make your garden area pop. However, this fast-growing grass isn’t as cold hardy as some other perennial grasses, and will not survive freezing temps.

  • Zones 9-11 typically, but can survive in cooler climates if you overwinter the plants indoors
  • Can grow to 4 feet tall and wide
  • Plants can be divided to produce more plants
  • Plant in spring for best results
  • Very little maintenance required once established
  • Deer resistant
  • Trim the plant back in early spring before new growth starts

Woodoats (Northern Sea Oats)

Northern Sea Oats is an exceptional choice for many hardiness zones. Its flowy, delicate-looking foliage is perfect for landscaping as well as drying for decorating. It can tolerate a variety of conditions including dry, salty, cold, shady, and wet soils.

  • Zones 3-8
  • Grows to mature heights of 2-3 feet tall and 1-3 feet wide
  • Can tolerate shade or sun
  • It will self sow with seeds, so remove the spent seeds if you don’t want more plants
  • Deer resistant
  • Foliage turns a bronze copper color in fall

Golden Hakone Grass

Golden Hakone Grass (also known as Japanese Forest Grass) is another perennial ornamental grass that will add variety to your landscape. With its striking shape and foliage, it can easily become a focal point.

  • Zones 5-9
  • Smaller and slower-growing grass than some others
  • Grows to a mature height of 12-18 inches tall and 12-24 inches wide
  • Thrives in shade
  • Foliage grows in almost a draped, downward curved fashion
  • Deer resistant

Blue Fescue

Perennial-Ornamental-Grasses-Blue-Fescue

Blue Fescue is yet another perennial grass with striking foliage. The wispy blue leaves can be just what you need to add variety to your borders, beds, or even standing alone in a grouping.

  • Zones 4-9, but may not tolerate extreme heat
  • Prefers full sun which enhances the blue color
  • Smaller mature height – grows to around 8-12 inches tall and 6-12 inches wide
  • Deer resistant
  • Blooms with yellow flowers in spring

Benefits of Perennial Ornamental Grasses

It’s easy to see why so many gardeners love perennial ornamental grasses. They offer many benefits including low maintenance once established, many are drought tolerant.

Most are deer and pest resistant. In addition, there are ornamental grasses in varying sizes depending on what you’re hoping to accomplish. You can find options for sun, shade, and even some that will thrive in both.

Versatility is a word that comes to mind when describing ornamental grasses. They don’t require a ton of strict conditions and can be used for walkways, borders, backdrops for smaller plants, hedges, and more.

For more perennial ideas, check out these favorites:

Drought Tolerant Perennials

Yellow Perennials

Low Maintenance Perennials


perennial grasses