30 types of ornamental grass for your landscape design

for stunning visual impact, strength, and nearly nonstop performance in your garden, we suggest considering planting types of ornamental grass. unlike turfgrass or lawn varieties, ornamental grasses are meant to let grow without mowing or cutting them, and most are far too tall to be ground covers. once you start adding various types of ornamental grasses to your landscape, you’ll be amazed by the sheer amount of sizes, varieties, colors, and shapes available. you can use them in a container garden, along a border, or to fill in pesky gaps.

to date, there are over 10,000 grass species throughout the world and over a million plant species. grass is one of the oldest living organisms on record, and the oldest is over 200,000 years old. it’s found in the mediterranean sea, and it’s a type of seagrass.

grasslands also cover 20% of earth’s vegetation, and you can find types of ornamental grass in tropical and temperate climates. when it comes to your lawn, there are only about six plants that grow per square inch. so, you can have roughly a million grass plants in an average lawn. if you’re looking for bigger types of ornamental grass, this is for you. we’re going to outline 30 popular types below.

1 ornamental grass plumes
ornamental grasses are a very popular way to fill in gaps in your landscape design, and they provide interest from early spring until late fall. ornamental grass by jogdenc / cc by-nc-nd 2.0

1. blue fescue

when you plant this type of ornamental grass in full sun, this option will introduce a very pretty grayish-blue hue to the space. it’ll work to add texture and draw the eye, and this smaller but attractive plant will grow in very fluffy clumps that get 12 inches wide and 12 inches high. it loves to be in soil that drains well, and it can tolerate moderate drought.

you will need to water it once a week during the first year to ensure it thrives. it is best planted in zones 4 to 10, and you can plant it in rock gardens, containers, and in front of your perennial bed. it looks especially nice if you plant it where the cooler color will contrast with bronze or tan grasses.

2. carex amazon mist

this is a pretty variety of variegated light green grass that has creamy white stripes on each leaf. this type of ornamental grass will get a foot high with a foot spread, and it grows best when you plant it outside in zones 6 to 10. once it establishes itself, this grass can withstand light drought without any damage. you want to water it once a week during the first year, and you want to plant it in an area that gets full sun each day with well-draining soil. for a nice effect in your landscape, plant it in a border of perennials with other types of ornamental grass.

3. carex bronco

this type of ornamental grass is a leatherleaf sedge variety that keeps a nice tufted and compact look, and it gets up to 14 inches wide and 12 inches high at full maturity. during the summer months, the leaves turn from a light green to a blazing bronze shade. it loves to be in a sunny location, but it can also tolerate light drought conditions with partial sun without any damage after the first year. you can combine this grass with other types of ornamental grasses in a perennial border, or you can pop it into a container for a splash of color on your patio or porch. plant it outside in zones 6 to 10 for the best results.

4. carex elata

also known as the bowles’ golden sedge, this type of ornamental grass grows to three feet wide and 18 inches tall. it is very resistant to wet conditions and deer, and it offers shiny yellow blades that have fine green edging that will elegantly arch toward the ground. it’s iridescent, hair-like foliage is one reason it looks good when you pair it with perennials or flowering bulbs. when you see it, you’ll know exactly why it has won a host of international awards.

5. carex oshimensis

better known as japanese sedge, this type of ornamental grass will get up to 18 inches high at full maturity. it has stunning glossy, narrow, leaves in a dark green coloring with silver-white edges. it’s very vigorous and easy to grow for beginners, and the color will contrast nicely with a huge range of bulb plants. it’ll grow virtually all year-round, and it looks nice planted in shady areas where you want to add a full plant to fill in bare spaces.

2 carex oshimensis
this simple and short ornamental grass is a nice choice if you’re looking to add splashes of movement to your container gardens. carex oshimensis ‘evergold’ by leonora (ellie) enking / cc by-sa 2.0

6. carex phoenix green

this gorgeous gras will form a very bright green cluster with upright blades that are very sturdy, and it’ll get 20 inches wide and 20 inches high at full maturity. it loves to be in partial sunlight or shade, and it won’t do well under the scorching afternoon sun. it’s also a bit thirstier than other types of ornamental grasses. you should plant it in a soil that drains very well and water it twice a week in hot weather. for the best results, plant it outdoors in zones 6 to 10. you can put it in a shade garden or showcase it as a specimen plant in a landscaped bed under a bigger tree.

7. carex red rooster

this sedge grass variety will send up stunning bronze-colored blades that have lightly curled tips, and this type of ornamental grass is slightly larger at 30 inches wide at full maturity. however, it only gets roughly 12 inches wide, and this makes it a solid choice for the back of your flower bed to create a nice backdrop for flowering plants or smaller grasses. it thrives in planting zones 6 to 9, and it loves well-drained soil with full sun conditions. like most ornamental grass varieties, it’s very low maintenance. in fact, it can survive light drought conditions after the first year

8. festuca glauca

some people refer to this type of ornamental grass as blue fox, and it’s easy to see why when you spot it. this is a dwarf grass that has silver-blue foliage with an upright growth manner. it also produces blooms in the summer months, and they will start out the same stunning hue as the foliage before turning to a light tan as they mature. it’s a drought-resistant, low-maintenance plant that loves full sun and doesn’t require a huge amount of water to thrive.

9. fiber optic grass

although this plant technically falls into the sedge category instead of a type of ornamental grass, it’s a nice way to add a distinct look to your garden or landscape design. it has several slender stems on it that curve outwards and get topped with tiny flowers. as a result, you get a cascading look that looks like a fiber-optic lamp. it requires a lot of water and full sun to stay healthy and green throughout the summer.

10. fountain grass

a fun favorite of landscape professionals, fountain grass will get up to three feet wide and three feet high when it matures. it gives you a very striking mound of softer green foliage during the spring months, but it won’t show you the full beauty of the plant until mid-summer rolls around when it sends up pretty white plumes. it thrives when you plant it in zones 4 to 9, and it can tolerate light droughts without any damage. for the best look, put this type of ornamental grass in the back or middle of a perennial border where the pretty plumes are clearly visible behind the shorter plants.

3 fountain grass
this grass has fun plumes that rise out of the top of the grass in the late summer and early fall months. purple fountain grass by rodney / cc by-sa 2.0

11. foxtail barley

this has a very elegant, arching leaf structure to it with flower spikes that look like soft feathers. this type of ornamental grass comes with flowers that are pale pink, green, or purple before they switch to light tan as the season goes on. it will bloom from the late spring months until mid summer, and it’ll also last for a long time in fresh or dried flower bouquets. it will get up to 24 inches tall, and it looks wonderful planted in beds, borders, or in mass plantings in open spaces.

12. helictotrichon sempervirens

offering steel-blue, narrow leaves, this type of ornamental grass grows in a rounded clump. it’s a semi-evergreen variety that is very low-maintenance, and it’ll start to show up in early to mid-summer as tiny spikelets with a straw coloring. it’s the winner of several international awards, and it does well in dry soils with good drainage in full sun conditions.

13. himalaya fairy grass

as you may have gotten from the name, this type of ornamental grass is native to the himalayas, and it grows up to four feet wide by five feet tall. it makes a wonderful accent plant, and it will grow plums that are creamy and silky later in the summer months. the rest of the growing season, it’ll offer leaves that are green and lush, and it’s so attractive that you can easily use it as a focal point in your garden design. it’s both deer and rabbit-resistant, and it likes full sun. it looks beautiful in prairies and cottage gardens, and it’s attractive to birds.

14. hot rod switch grass

if you’re after a stunning display of color, this type of ornamental grass won’t disappoint as it starts out as a muted greenish-blue color before going to blazing burgundy during the mid-summer months. it can get up to four feet high, but it’ll stay compact with a two-foot spread at a maximum.

this makes it a good choice to plant in a perennial border or in the back of your flowerbed. it grows in planting zones four to nine, and it likes well-drained soil on the drier side. it grows in partial shade to full sun, and it can tolerate light drought when it matures. however, as it’s growing, it needs you to water it weekly.

15. japanese silver grass

sometimes referred to as maiden grass, this type of ornamental grass will form an upright mound that can eventually reach up to 30 inches wide and 30 inches high. it has a deep green coloring on the blades that have softer white stripes running across them, and this is an autumn plant that will send up silvery plumes. it’s hardy in zones four to nie, and you want to plant it in partial shade to full sun in a soil that drains very well. to get a stunning effect in your garden, plant it in a space where the setting sun will highlight the silver plumes.

4 japanese silver grass
this soft type of ornamental grass comes in a pretty color with stripes to make it more eye-catching. summer in the garden: miscanthus sinensis ‘gracillimus’ by john winder / cc by-nc-nd 2.0

16. juncus blue arrows

as a member of the rush family, this type of ornamental grass has upright, stiff blades that can get up to three feet tall while staying in a more narrow 12 inches spread. it will tolerate drought conditions when it matures, it does best in semi-moist areas in your yard, and this makes it excellent for landscaping around your water features or koi ponds. it grows in zones five to nine, and it looks wonderful used as a backdrop for showy flowering plants or shorter grass types.

17. little bluestem

this type of ornamental grass is native to the prairies in north america, and this makes it a fantastic pick if you want to create a wildlife-friendly and hardy garden. you can grow it in dry and moist soils, but it’ll look much more like sod in moist soil. in dry soil, you’ll get grass that forms much taller clumps. the name comes from the blue stems, but the foliage can also range from a greenish-blue to a deep wine color that changes with the seasons.

18. maiden grass

also called miscanthus, this type of ornamental grass is a great choice for any urban-style gardens or any garden that has a lot of hardscaping because the fuzzy blossoms coupled with the graceful foliage will help soften up harsh lines. if you get full-sized types, they can get up to eight feet tall, but there are also dwarf varieties that slot nicely into smaller spaces. you’ll want to keep the soil consistently moist and plant it in an area with full sun for the best results. during the autumn months, it’ll switch from a green coloring to purple, red, or golden hues.

19. moor grass

you may hear this type of ornamental grass called purple moor grass, and it’s a very graceful plant that has thread-like leaves. the leaves start out a green color before maturing to a brownish-purple and then finally a golden tan. the grass does well mixed with perennials, and it will form a dense clump that can get up to eight feet high. it’s a very low-maintenance pick that likes light shade to full sun.

20. northwind

this pretty ornamental grass will get up to six feet high at full maturity, and it features upright, dense blades for foliage that is greenish-blue to olive green in color. as it matures and ages, this plant will form spikelets that look like golden flowers until autumn. at this point, both the spikelets and the leaves will turn a light tan color. this type of ornamental grass likes full sun or partial shade, and it looks lovely in gardens when you plant it alongside ponds or streams.

21. overdam feather reed grass

you can add a splash of pretty gold to any fall garden with this type of ornamental grass. it’s a very showy option that is best planted in zones four to nine, and it needs a very sunny spot to help it develop the regal, rich hue. the delicate feathery spikes it produces get up to six feet high at full maturity, and the plant keeps a very narrow two foot width at maximum. you can use it to create a fun vertical effect at the back of your garden or border. water it once a week and plant it in well-drained soil for the best growth. the striking plumage also looks wonderful in cut flower arrangements.

5 overdam feather reed grass
if you’re trying to fill in your autumn garden, you’ll want to consider adding this large grass to help make the garden look full and lush. feather reed grass ‘overdam’ {calamagrostis acutiflora} by drew avery / cc by 2.0

22. pampas grass

as the queen of ornamental grasses, a mature pampas grass can easily get upt 10 feet high and offer a 6 foot spread to fill in dead spaces in your landscape. it will send up light pink or creamy white plumes that are very large, and this lends an exotic look to the plant. it’s one of the tallest types of ornamental grasses available, and you want to plant it by itself or in the back of a border. put it in soil that drains well in a sunny spot in planting zones 4 to 10 for it to thrive. it will tolerate drought as it matures, but you should water it twice a week during the first year to ensure it establishes good roots.

23. regal mist pink muhly grass

loved for the pretty pink foliage it produces, this type of ornamental grass is a great choice to add to your garden if you live in zones six to nine. it will form a green, glossy mound that will get three feet wide and four feet high, but the real eye-catching show doesn’t start until the middle of summer. during this time, the plant will bloom and cover the entire mound in airy pink plumes that move with the lightest breeze.

this plant needs plenty of sunshine, but it should get shade when the more harsh afternoon sun comes through. plant it in a soil that drains well and plan to water it once a week for the best results. when it’s hot, you may have to water it twice a week.

24. rubrum grass

also referred to as purple fountain grass, you’ll get a stunning color and very graceful movements. it offers eye-catching foliage that is a deep red coloring with crimson plumes that arch very nicely. it loves partial shade or full sun, and it’s a great specimen plant. deer will ignore it, and it can get up to four feet high and five feet tall. if you plant in en masse, it gives you a dramatic focal point due to the coloring.

25. rush grass

maybe you want to add life to a poorly drained patch of your garden or yard, or you want to give your pond a facelift. if so, this type of ornamental grass is a great pick. it adores moisture, and it’ll grow in very shallow water. there are also several varieties available that range from options with corkscrew-like stems to soft tufts. as long as it gets a lot of sun, it’ll also thrive in container gardens.

26. stipa grass

in the autumn months when the weather starts to cool off, the blades of this type of ornamental grass will turn a very soft green color with hints of copper and pink to help create a focal point in your fall garden. this plant forms a very wide mound that will reach 22 inches wide and 12 inches wide at full maturity. it can tolerate light droughts and loves full sun, and it does best when you plant it in zones 7 to 10. you can plant it in well-drained soil in a container or perennial border along your patio.

6 stipa grass
stipa grass offers very flowing and wavy plumes in soft white that contrast nicely with the green foliage. p1120652 by roman kosenko / cc by-nc-nd 2.0

27. stipa pony tails

also called mexican feather grass, this type of ornamental grass is a showstopper starting in july and going to autumn. it produces pretty golden plumes that shimmer when the sun hits them, and it grows best in zones six to nine. it also features needle like, fine blades that are 24 inches wide and tall, and it loves being in a sunny location with well-draining soil. it’ll tolerate light drought without damage after the first year, and it looks lovely planted in a flowerbed where you can easily see it.

28. snowy woodrush

during the spring months, this type of ornamental grass will offer a show of pure white flowers with greenish-gray coloring. it’s an impressive type of ornamental grass with spiky green blades and a hair-like fringe in white that gets between 6 and 12 inches tall and 18 inches wide. this makes it a nice filler for your flowerbed in zones four to nine. it prefers moist soil in a shaded area, and this makes it a nice choice for forest gardens. it makes a wonderful edging plant, and it also works well in containers or planted with spiking, taller plants.

29. quaking grass

this is a unique and entertaining type of ornamental grass that will start out green with purple hints before fading to tan as it ages. it has flat spikelets that look like puffy oats and leaves that are a deep green color with a soft feel. it requires little maintenance, and it resists drought. it works well when you use it in dried or fresh arrangements, and it works well in cottage gardens, meadows, or naturalized spaces.

30. zebrinus

the final type of ornamental grass on the list is also called zebra grass, and it gets the name due to the fact that it has green foliage with soft yellow rings. the colors range from a rich gold to copper-pink or buff silver, depending on the plant’s age. it can get up to six feet wide and seven feet tall, so you have to give in a decent amount of room when you plant it.

gardenscape design tips with ornamental grasses

with the sheer range of options available, ornamental grasses can work well in a host of garden settings. you can use them by themselves or in combination with other flowers, grasses, shrubs, and trees. they do well in planters to give you a fluid, soft texture with a fun array of colors, including green, blue, gold, chartreuse, orange, bronze, red, and even black.

larger types of ornamental grass

cultivars can easily grow from 5 to 12 feet high, including full-sized millet, pampas, or maiden grasses. they make a very dramatic focal point in your yard, and they lend a nice sense of flowing movement with a light breeze. you can use the tall varieties as part of the main garden structure by planting them as stand-alone plants that will anchor your bigger flower bed arrangement, or you can create a privacy screen by planting them en masse.

midsize types of ornamental grass

varieties like fountain, bluestem, and switchgrass work very well to help you flesh out the base of your garden. you can use them to create a secondary tier in any mixed bed planting, or they can work as single plants in their containers. they’re nice accent pieces when you use them singly, or you can provide a very balanced or harmonious look when you plant them as multiples or in pairs.

small, tufted types of ornamental grass

small ornamental grass like japanese forest grass or black mondo, or colorful carex grasses, do well as decorative accents in your garden. they’re eye-catching in garden bed borders, and you can use them to soften rockeries right alongside your retaining walls. they work to line paths or driveways, fill in bare spots, or allow you to mix them into containers.

bottom line

we’ve outlined 30 pretty types of ornamental grasses you can add to your garden or landscape design to create a whimsical look with motion. they come in a huge range of sizes and colors, and many of them require the same environments to grow well. so, you can easily mix and match to get a stunning look throughout the summer months.

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