My garden is dominated by ornamental grasses. It started out of necessity as they could handle the poor draining clay soil, all day sun, harsh wintry conditions and were completely ignored by the deer. But is has since evolved into me simply loving the hell out of them as witnessed by my numerous posts on the topic. They are the backbone of my garden.
A friend recently asked me “Which grasses should I plant this spring?” and I told him I’ll do you one better, I’ll dedicate an entire post to my personal favorites. A handy little guide for those who are just entering the OG world or are looking to add a few to their existing collection. My recommendations are solely based on grasses that have resided in my own garden as I’ve had the time to watch them mature and adapt over the years. There are definitely others I’ve seen in other gardens that I would recommend as well, but until I have a personal experience with them, I cannot comment.
I’ve dedicated posts to many of these individual grasses, so simply click on the name of the grass to read in greater detail. I’ve also included a few quick tidbits below about each grass.
Here are my top ten ornamental grasses (in no particular order):
- Grass remains completely upright all year long.
- Reached full size (5′-6′) within three years after planting a tiny plug.
- Underrated yellow fall color.
- First grass I ever planted.
- My favorite fall “red”of all the Panicums
- I’ve divided this grass numerous times with ease.
- The biggest head turner in Fall with its foliage color of red/green/orange.
- The silver blooms are a nice contrast.
- Looks fantastic with fall perennials (Dwarf sneezeweed in the photo)
- This towering native grass (middle of pic) reaches 7 feet when in bloom.
- Took 2-3 years to establish, but now upright and stays that way through winter.
- Individual blooms are interesting when viewed up close.
- Only two years in with this one and it has already established itself well.
- Great late summer/fall foliage color.
- Tons of blooms starting in summer and they still look good into the winter.
- Reliable performer year after year. 9 years in for me.
- Doesn’t hold up as well in winter as the other grasses.
- A bit weedy like most Miscanthus.
- Yes, you can find them everywhere, but there is a reason for that. Care free and upright and buff blooms all summer and into fall.
- I like to squeeze one in between perennials as a great contrast in texture and color.
- I divide all the time with ease and nothing but success.
- Great blue color in spring and then shades of pink and red in late summer.
- Has handled early morning shade without issue.
- Two years in with this one and I’m in love with it. Holds up all season including in winter.
- A slow to establish cool season grass but worth the wait. This one is all about the blooms as they get 4′ to 5′ tall and look killer at the back of a border.
- Does not hold up in winter as the blooms break off.
- Just planted ‘Cordoba’ for the first time which is allegedly even better than ‘Skyracer’.
- Another newcomer for me as we’re three years in. About 3′ to 4′ in height but should reach 6′ to 7′.
- The foliage color is off the charts already. Red hues even in spring and then dark red in fall.
- Seems slower to establish but it will be worth the wait. Only a few blooms to date.
And a few bonus “non-recommendations”:
- The picture to the right is this cool season grass at its peak. Short lived though as it becomes nondescript the rest of the year.
- Nowhere near as solid as ‘Karl Foerster’
- Maybe TBD is a better description. Nothing bad, just not as exciting as other switch grasses to date.
- I haven’t seen much of a blue hue so far, just a drab green.
- Just read this and you’ll understand why I gave up on it.