20 best perennial ornamental grasses for landscaping

There are several ways you can improve the curb appeal of your home. Adding ornamental grasses is one option since they are unique and colorful.  

When it comes to landscaping, most people usually go for traditional lawn turf or even flowering plants before considering ornamental grasses.

However, they can be just as effective with their conspicuous colors adding breath-taking beauty to your compound.  

Ornamental grasses can also be used with traditional turf of flowering plants to create a contrasting landscape design.

Below, we have compiled a list of various ornamental grasses you should consider for your landscaping needs. 

20 best perennial ornamental grasses for your landscape  

There are several types of perennial ornamental grasses available. They vary in several aspects from flower colors to growth regions and more.

These are the 20 top perennial ornamental grasses that can transform your landscape.

1. Mexican feather grass 

Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima)
Image: Flickr/Aaron Odland

Mexican feather grass is a common type of grass in the United States, Mexico, and South America. It is known by several other names such as finestem needlegrass and Argentine needlegrass.

The Mexican feather grass is a perennial grass that grows in bushes, with its stem rising as high as 40 inches tall.

It is mainly used as an ornamental garden plant but can also grow freely in the wild.

It is a fine-textured grass with bright, lime-green foliage. It can maintain its color all year round, only drying and browning a little during the hot season.

It is best suited for growing in USDA zones 6 to 10.  

2. Japanese silver grass 

Japanese Silvergrass
Image: Flickr/huzu1959

Japanese silver grass is an ornamental type of grass that grows in thick clumps that can reach 8 feet tall.

It produces feathery, whitish-gray plumes – hence the name – though some varieties have pink or reddish flowers.  

The Japanese silver grass is one of the top ornamental grasses for full sun areas. It does well in moist soils but can tolerate a bit of a drought. It does well in zones 5 to 9.  

3. Pheasant’s tail grass 

Pheasant’s tail grass

The Pheasant’s tail grass is a fast-growing ornamental grass that offers excellent landscaping opportunities. It grows in fountain-like clumps, which provide vibrant colors all year round.

It has bright-green foliage, which turns orange, yellow, or red, providing a pretty scene. The colors are more intense and dramatic as the cold season sets in. 

The Pheasant’s tail grass does well in full or partial sun and prefers moderately fertile to well-drained soils. It is one of the hardiest perennial ornamental grasses, which does well in zone 8 to 10. 

4. Leatherleaf sedge 

Leatherleaf sedge

Leatherleaf sedge is a perennial grass that grows in thick, dense clumps that can reach up to 3 ft. tall. It is a colorful ornamental grass with vibrant orange to bronze blades.

It is suited for landscaping gardens, yards, or lawns or creating privacy fences. It can offer amazing views in gardens when mixed with other types of grasses or flowering plants.

Leatherleaf sedge grass does well in well-draining fertile soil. It has a moderate growth rate, but is quite hardy, doing well under full sun, hot seasons, and even cold seasons.

Leatherleaf flowers during summer and spring. It is best suited for zones 6 to 9.  

5. Regal mist pink muhly grass 

Regal mist pink muhly grass

Regal mist pink muhly grass is a popular grass that is used for ornamental purposes in gardens and yards. It grows in a small form and features glossy green foliage.

However, from late summer to winter, the plant produces airy pink plumes, which offer magnificent views.  

READ ALSO:  How to kill weeds in Bermuda grass

The pink muhly grass plant is hardy and can adapt to various types of soils and climates. However, it does exceptionally well in rich, well-drained soil.

It can also do well in partial shade but requires full sun for fast growth and blooming. It is ideal for growing in zones 6 to 9. 

6. Moor grass 

Moor grass

The moor grass is a grass plant with purple flowers, which is used for ornamental reasons.

It is a native plant in Europe and North Africa but can also be found in other world regions such as the Pacific North West, and Southern America.

It grows in a neat tuft and can reach heights of up to 8 feet. Therefore, it is also a perfect candidate for privacy fences.  

Moor grass does well in fertile, acidic soils. It requires regular watering and does well in partial shade or full sun. It is one of the top perennial ornamental grasses for zone 4 regions.  

7. Switch grass 

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)
Image: Lotosk

Switchgrass is a perennial upright growing grass, which forms tall clumps that reach up to 6 feet tall.

The grass grows in bluish-green foliage, with streaks of color that offer exceptional landscape beauty. It also produces feathery plumes during the summer, further adding to its appeal.  

The switchgrass plant is very versatile and hardy. It can do well in dry conditions but enjoys a fast growth in fertile, wet soils. It also enjoys partial shade to full sun.

Switch grass is one of the low-maintenance ornamental grasses. If the plant dies off due to extreme conditions, it will re-establish itself soon after due to its vast rhizome systems.

Switchgrass is ideal for growing in zones 5 to 9. 

8. Lily turf

Lily turf

Lilyturf is a type of perennial, broadleaf, evergreen grasses used for various landscaping solutions. It is known by several names such as monkey grass, spider grass, liriope, and more.

Lilyturf grass grows in clusters of tall tufts, which reach up to 45 cm. It has glossy, dark-green foliage and produces attractive purple flowers in late summer.  

Lilyturf is one of the easiest growing ornamental grasses. It does well in medium to well-drained soil. It can also thrive in full sun or partial shade, tolerant of drought and heat.

The grass is ideal for growing in zones 6 to 10 and zone 5 with proper winter protection.  

9. Hardy fountain grass (Pennisetum) 

Hardy fountain grass

Hardy Fountain grass is a perennial ornamental plant that is used in various landscape settings.

It is a warm-season grass, native to Asia and Australia but well adapted to the climate of various regions around the world.  

Hardy fountain grass has deep green foliage with dense upright clumps that reach up to 48 inches. However, as the leaves mature, they curve up, appearing like a fountain.

The leaves also change color with the season, turning orange in autumn and beige in summer.  The grass is ideal for growing in zones 5 to 10. 

10. Pampas grass 

pampas grass
Image: Vaivirga

Pampas grass is a perennial ornamental grass native to Asia and regions of South America. It is known by several other names, such as Cortaderia (meaning cutter) due to its sharp leaf blades.  

Pampas grass grows in big tufts of green foliage and produces white flowers. It is a tall-growing plant, which can reach heights of 10 feet.

Therefore, aside from ornamental uses during landscaping, it makes for a very good privacy fence. 

Pampas grass thrives in well-drained soils, but it is very versatile and does well in any soil type. It tolerates partial shade but thrives in full sunlight.

It is ideal for growing in zones 7 to 11 but can also be cultivated in zone 6. 

The grass is considered a weed in some areas where it has to be eliminated quickly to prevent it from spreading.

11. Overdam feather reed grass 

Overdam feather reed grass
Image: Flickr/Drew

Overdam Feather Reed Grass is a perennial ornamental grass that grows in bushy tufts. It is a cool-season grass with bright green foliage with attractive white streaks.

The grass plant is native to the Asian and European regions but has become naturalized in several regions, including the Americas.  

Overdam Feather Reed grass has low maintenance. It thrives in full sun and can tolerate a hot and dry climate (but with a bit of shade).

READ ALSO:  10 weeds that look like small trees

The grass plant grows well in fertile, moist soils but can also grow in clay soil.

It is also very hardy. It survives even through the winter season. It is ideal for growing in zone 4 to 9. 

12. Purple fountain grass 

Purple fountain grass 

Purple fountain grass is one of the most popular ornamental grasses used for landscaping.

It has burgundy or purple-colored foliage, with fuzzy, purplish bloom, which offers breath-taking views of your garden.  

Purple fountain grass is a perennial plant, which keeps on coming back each year. It is low maintenance and can do well in nearly every type of soil.

It is also drought-resistant and can survive dry conditions. However, it will thrive in moist, well-drained soils with regular watering.  

The purple fountain grass does not take much effort to grow. Also, once established, it can keep coming back year after year with little maintenance.

However, for the best performance, it is ideal for growing in zones 7 to 9 (but with winter protection in zone 7 and 8).  

13. Giant oat grass 

Giant oat grass 
Image: Flickr/Haywood

Giant Oat grass is a fast-growing tufted grass that is green all year round. It is tall growing, reaching up to 2 meters high.

It has upright leaves with large, purplish flowers that turn to a golden color when they ripen. As a result, it is a great candidate for landscaping work. 

The Giant Oat grass is a sun-loving plant that is quite hardy and can do well in nearly any soil type.

However, for the best results, you should grow it in moist, well-drained soil. It also does best when grown in zones 6 to 9. 

14. Blood grass 

Blood grass

The Japanese Blood Grass is the ornamental grass of choice if you need bold and vibrant colors for your garden.

The attractive red accent adds unique beauty to your garden regardless of the season.  

The blood grass does well in full sunlight, and the red accent will be more intense when it receives ample sunlight, such as in autumn and winter.

It is also perennial, coming back year after year.

However, it often dies back during the winter season, only to sprout again. It is hardy to USDA zones 5 to 9.  

15. Japanese forest grass 

Japanese forest grass 

The Japanese Forest Grass is another amazing ornamental grass. It is native to Japan but can be found in several other regions across the world.

Homeowners love the plant for its beautiful clumps and the evergreen leaves with a gold accent.

It is perfect for landscaping, whether grown in containers or color accent in the garden or along the border. 

The Japanese Forest Grass is not very hardy, requiring fertile, moist, well-drained soils. It also requires regular watering, especially during hot weather.

On top of that, it thrives in partial shade and not full sunlight. It does best when grown in USDA zones 5 to 9 

16. New Zealand flax 

New Zealand flax grass
Image: Flickr/peggy_jacobs

New Zealand Flax is another popular ornamental grass to consider when looking to spruce up the curb appeal of your home.

It is used for landscaping due to its deep red or purplish bronze foliage.

In addition, it is a tall and wide growing grass, which can grow up to 4 feet wide and 5 feet tall. Therefore, you can also use it for fencing.  

The New Zealand Flax is low-maintenance, aside from the regular de-clumping every few years or so.

The grass does well in fertile, well-drained soils and partial shade to full sun. It is recommended for growing in zones 8 to 10. 

17. Zebra grass 

Zebra Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’)
Image: Jardins

The zebra grass is an ornamental grass that gets its name from the vibrant green leaves with patches of pale yellow.

It is a beautiful plant that offers an exotic look that works perfectly with other flowering plants.  

The zebra grass is a tall-growing, bushy grass, which can reach up to 5 feet high and 5 feet wide. It is perennial, coming back year after year.

However, it dies back in the winter season, only to sprout back vigorously during spring.

Therefore, it is ideal for growing in USDA zones 5 to 9. 

READ ALSO:  How to get rid of grass from a vegetable garden

18. Blue fescue 

Blue Fescue

Blue Fescue is a low-growing ornamental grass, which is used for edging, or borders. Some species of Fescue grass are even grown as lawn grass sometimes.

However, the blue foliage in the Blue Fescue and the yellow flowers makes it perfect for landscaping.  

Blue Fescue is a hardy perennial plant, which does well in sandy soil and prefers full sun to part shade.

The plant will thrive with supplemental water in the driest conditions, but the soil should not become too wet.

It is ideal for growing in zones 4 and 5, though some varieties can be grown even in zone 3. 

19. June grass 

June grass

June Grass is a hardy perennial grass that is native to Eurasia and North America. It is also known as crested hair-grass in the UK, where it is quite common.

It is a short-growing, tuft grass that only reaches about 20 to 70 cm.

The grass has beautiful blue-green leaves with shiny tan spikes that sometimes bloom with purple hues.

It is also a good host for butterfly larvae, which adds further to the beauty of your garden.  

The June Grass is a hardy perennial grass, which grows on average to dry soil.

It also grows easily in tough environments and thrives in full sunlight to partial shade. Therefore, it is ideal for growing in USDA zone 3. 

20. Purple millet  

Purple millet grass

Purple Millet is a warm-season ornamental grass that is popular for various landscaping scenes. It has beautiful green, broad leaves with attractive golden and purple hues.

It also produces a visually striking purple millet, creating a rare sight in your garden.  

Purple Millet can grow in any soil type, but it does best in light, well-drained soil.

It also performs well when exposed to full sun, especially the purple leaves variety, which needs maximum sun to develop a deep hue.

Therefore, it is recommended for planting in USADA zones 10 and 11. 

FAQs

These are the most commonly asked questions about ornamental grasses.

What ornamental grasses stay green year-round? 

Are you looking for evergreen ornamental grasses? While some ornamental grasses tend to change color or die out in some seasons, some stay green all year round.

These are a great idea for your garden as they maintain vibrant colors regardless of the season.  

Some of the top evergreen ornamental grasses you can find include Mexican feather grass, Japanese forest grass, pampas grass, and pink muhly grass.

NOTE: You might have to put in some winter protection with some of these grasses, depending on the zone.  

Are all ornamental grasses perennial? 

The most ornamental grasses you will come across are perennials. They live for two or more years and keep coming back year after year when they are cut or die off due to extreme weather.  

However, there are some annual ornamental grasses, which only survive for one season before dying off.

Examples include skyrocket grass, fireworks grass, and red riding hood Pennisetum.

Some perennial grass might also behave as annuals when grown in zones where they are not hardy.  

What is the hardiest ornamental grass? 

Hardy ornamental grasses are a good idea when looking to boost the appearance of your garden/yard.

They have low maintenance and will grow easily with minimum effort. They are also tolerant to severe conditions such as drought, sun, and poor soils.  

There are several hardy ornamental types of grass you can find for your landscaping needs.

The hardiest ones include June grass, blue fescue grass, switchgrass, and needlegrass.  

Summary  

Ornamental perennial grasses are one of the best ideas for any landscaping work.

They add unique, round-the-year beauty to your garden, with some staying all-green year-round. Most of them are also hardy and require very little maintenance.  

Ornamental grasses can also be used for various other purposes, such as providing contrast to other landscape plants or even on fences.

If you are looking for some good perennial ornamental grasses, the above are some of the top ones that will keep coming year after year.