Lawn & Garden Landscaping

15 Good-Looking Ornamental Grasses to Spruce up Your Outdoors

Increase curb appeal and backyard beauty with any of these hardy, easy-to-grow ornamental grasses.
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Types of Ornamental Grasses

Though often overlooked in favor of traditional turf and flowering plants, ornamental grasses can add beauty, movement, and textural interest to any yard. They’re available in a vast array of greens, golds, reds, and even blues to liven up flowerbeds, borders, and containers, and are suitable for a wide range of growing zones (check out the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to see what thrives in your area). So as you plan your outdoor space, keep the 15 varieties here in mind. For the most part our picks are low-maintenance and perennial to boot, so they’ll come back for your enjoyment year after year.

RELATED: 25 No-Effort Plants for a Foolproof Landscape

Japanese Silver Grass

Emerald Coast Growers

Sometimes called “Maiden Grass,” Japanese Silver Grass (Miscanthus Bandwidth) forms an upright mound, eventually reaching 30 inches in both height and width. Its deep green blades feature contrasting soft white strips, and in autumn the plant sends up stunning silvery plumes. Japanese Silver Grass is hardy in zones 4 through 9 and should be planted in full to partial sun in well-drained soil. For a stunning effect, locate this ornamental in a spot where the setting sun can illuminate its silvery plumes.

Stipa Grass

Ball Horticultural Company

When the weather cools in fall, the blades of Stipa Grass (Anemanthele lessoniana) turn from soft green to shimmering shades of pink and copper, creating a colorful focal point in the autumn garden. Stipa forms a wide mound, reaching 12 inches in height and 22 inches in width at maturity. It loves full sun, will tolerate light drought, and it thrives in zones 7 through 10. Plant Stipa Grass in well-drained soil in the perennial border or in containers for a showy addition to your yard or patio.

Leatherleaf Sedge: Carex Bronco

Ball Horticultural Company

The Carex Bronco (Carex comans) variety of Leatherleaf Sedge maintains a compact tufted appearance, reaching no more than 12 inches in height and 14 inches in width. Over the summer, its blades turn from green to a blazing shade of bronze. Carex Bronco loves full sun but will tolerate partial sun and light drought conditions at maturity (water weekly its first year). Combine this ornamental with other grasses in the perennial border or plant it in a container for a splash of color on a porch or patio. Carex Bronco grows best in zones 6 through 10.

Leatherleaf Sedge: Carex Amazon Mist

Ball Horticultural Company

Leatherleaf Sedge features stiff curved blades with delicately twisted tips that gracefully arch outward to create a tufted look. Blades of the Carex Amazon Mist (Carex comans) variety are variegated light green with creamy white stripes. The plant reaches 12 inches in height with a 12-inch spread and grows best in zones 6 through 10. Once established, Carex Amazon Mist withstands light drought conditions, but it should be watered weekly during its first year. Plant Amazon Mist in well-drained soil where it receives full sun. For a natural effect, locate the plant in the middle of a perennial border in combination with other ornamental grasses.

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Sedge Grass: Carex Red Rooster

Ball Horticultural Company

Carex Red Rooster (Carex buchananii), a variety of Sedge Grass, sends up brilliant bronze blades with curled tips to a height of 30 inches high at maturity. Its tall, narrow habit (only 12 inches wide) makes it a perfect choice for the back of the flowerbed, creating a striking backdrop for other grasses or flowering plants. Carex Red Rooster thrives in zones 6 through 9 and prefers full sun and well-drained soil. Like most ornamental grasses, it’s low maintenance and can withstand light drought conditions, but it needs weekly watering its first year.

Blue Fescue

Ball Horticultural Company

When planted in full sun, Blue Fescue (Festuca glauca) brings the garden an eye-catching blue-gray hue, drawing the eye and adding texture. This attractive little plant grows in puffy clumps, reaching 12 inches in height and width. It likes well-drained soil and can tolerate light drought conditions but needs weekly water its first year. It grows best in zones 4 through 10 and can be planted in containers, rock gardens, and at the front of perennial beds. Locate Blue Fescue where its cool color will contrast nicely against tan or bronze grasses.

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Leatherleaf Sedge: Carex Phoenix Green

Ball Horticultural Company

Gorgeous Carex Phoenix Green (Carex comans) forms a bright green cluster of sturdy upright blades, reaching 20 inches in both height and width at maturity. It prefers shade or partial sunlight (it doesn’t do well under hot afternoon sun) and is a bit thirstier than other sedge varieties. Plant in well-drained soil and water bi-weekly in hot weather. In zones 6 through 10, grow this green beauty in a shade garden or as a specimen plant in a landscaped bed located under the spreading branches of a large tree.

Juncus Blue Arrows

Ball Horticultural Company

A member of the rush family of grasses, Juncus Blue Arrows (Juncus inflexus) features stiff upright blades that reach up to 36 inches in height while maintaining a narrow 12 inches spread. While it tolerates light drought conditions (after fully grown), it also thrives in moist areas, making it a good choice for landscaping around a pond or other water feature. Juncus Blue Arrows grows in zones 5 through 9 and looks best as a backdrop for shorter grasses or showy flowering plants.

Stipa Pony Tails

Ball Horticultural Company

Also known as “Mexican Feather Grass,” Stipa Pony Tails (Stipa tenuissima) is a showstopper from July to late fall, producing silky golden plumes that shimmer in the sun. Stipa Pony Tails grows best in zones 6 through 9 and features fine, needlelike blades that reach 24 inches in both height and width. It prefers a sunny location, well-drained soil, and it will tolerate light drought conditions at maturity but needs weekly water its first year. Plant Stipa Pony Tails in a flowerbed or the middle of the perennial border where it can be easily seen, because you won’t want to miss this beauty!

RELATED: 10 Sun-Loving Plants That Thrive in Summer

Snowy Woodrush

Ball Horticultural Company

In spring, Snowy Woodrush (Luzula nivea) delights with a show of pure white flowers rising above its gray-green blades. This impressive ornamental grass of spiky green blades with white hair-like fringe reaches 6 inches to 12 inches in height but can spread up to 18 inches in width, making it a fine filler for the front of a flowerbed in zones 4 through 9. Snowy Woodrush prefers a shady location and moist soil—water weekly during its first season and thereafter. This appealing ornamental grass makes a good edging plant and is also attractive in containers when combined with taller spiking plants.

Pampas Grass

Ball Horticultural Company

The queen of ornamental grasses, a mature Pampas Grass (Cortaderia Stapf) specimen can reach up 10 feet in height with a 6-foot spread. In summer, it sends up large, creamy white or light pink plumes, giving the plant an exotic look. As one of the tallest grasses, Pampas should be planted by itself or at the back of the perennial border. Give it well-drained soil in a sunny spot in zones 4 through 10. While Pampas will tolerate drought as a mature plant, it should be watered biweekly during its first growing season to help it establish a good root system.

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Fountain Grass

Ball Horticultural Company

A favorite of professional landscapers, Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroide) reaches 3 feet at maturity and features a 3-foot spread. It forms a striking mound of soft green foliage in spring, but it doesn’t come into its full beauty until mid-summer when it sends up clouds of billowing white plumes. Fountain Grass thrives in zones 4 through 9 and will tolerate light drought, but needs weekly water its first year. For the best results, locate Fountain Grass in the middle or the back of the perennial border where its show-stopping plumes will be clearly visible behind lower-growing plants.

Hot Rod Switch Grass

Ball Horticultural Company

For a striking display of color, you can’t beat Hot Rod Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum “Hot Rod”) as it transforms from muted blue-green to blazing burgundy in mid-summer. This ornamental specimen reaches 4 feet in height but maintains a compact 2-foot spread, making it a good choice for the back of the flowerbed or the perennial border. It grows in zones 4 through 9 and prefers well-drained soil that won’t become soggy. Hot Rod Switch Grass grows in either full sun or partial shade, and while it tolerates light drought conditions at maturity, weekly watering is recommended for its first year.

Overdam Feather Reed Grass

Ball Horticultural Company

Add a splash of cheerful gold to your autumn landscape with Overdam Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora “Overdam”). This showy ornamental thrives in zones 4 through 9 and needs a sunny spot in order to fully develop its rich, regal hue. Its delicate feathery spikes rise to 6 feet in height, while the plant maintains a narrow 2-foot width, making Overdam a good choice to create a vertical effect at the back of the perennial border. Plant in well-drained soil and water weekly. Overdam’s striking plumage is a welcome addition to cut-flower arrangements.

Regal Mist Pink Muhly Grass

Revered for its extraordinary pink plumage, Regal Mist Pink Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris “Lenca”) is a spectacular choice for zones 6 through 9. In spring, Regal Mist forms a glossy green mound reaching 4 feet in height and 3 feet in width, but the real show starts in mid-summer when it bursts into bloom, covering the entire plant in airy pink plumes that sway in the lightest breeze. This ornamental needs sunshine, but choose a location shielded from harsh afternoon sun. Plant in well-drained soil and water weekly for its first year and during hot temperatures in subsequent years. Regal Mist is stunning by itself as a specimen plant or as an attractive addition to the back of a perennial border.

Don't Overlook Grass

Ornamental grass can look spectacular in a landscape—with very little maintenance.