Grasses are a fantastic addition to the garden or in pots on the patio, as they add colour, movement, and height. Many grasses are drought-tolerant, which means less watering in the summer months, and these ornamental grasses don't even have to be mowed! (Talk about a win-win situation!)
Perennial grass plants come in such a variety of shapes, sizes, and colours, the hardest part of adding them to your garden might be making a choice. From tall to bushy, tan to purple, and sharp bladed to puffy plumes—there are more options to consider than when you're out car shopping.
Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself before grabbing a grass plant at the nursery:
- How much space do I have for this perennial? Some grasses clump and others spread vigorously!
- Will this grass be in front of other plants in my garden? Consider a shorter, low-to-the-ground variety of grass so that you don't hide your other garden favourites.
- Do I want this grass to be a border or grow along a fence? Choose taller, more prolific, grasses that will spread out and provide height above your garden beds. (Keep in mind they may also add shade.)
- Is this grass plant going to be ornamental, a show-stopper, or just fill in some space? Some grasses have gorgeous ornamental plumes, while others show off bright coloured blades. Just like blooms, you have to consider how your new addition will fit into your garden scheme.
Hopefully, these questions have got you thinking about which grasses might fit into your perfect spot on the patio or in the garden. We've put together a few of our favorite perennial grasses below for you to consider!
Strawberry + Cream Ribbon Grass
Phalaris arundinacea 'Feesey'
The name alone invokes delicious summer memories! This ribbon grass has beautiful variegated foliage in green, white, and pink. (The pink won't always show on immature plants.) A drought-tolerant grass, it likes full sun or light shade and will spread. You can use this plant as an eye-catching border or ground cover.
We love to see this colourful grass in amongst annuals in container gardens—especially pink and purple blooms! It matches beautifully.
There are many types of Silver Grass, and almost all of them have eye-catching, feathery plumes. They make a fantastic hedge or border because of their height. You can also use these bold grasses in pots or as garden bed centrepieces to create a stunning display.
After a year or two, when the plant is fully established, it is quite drought tolerant. Plant this grass in full sun and cut it back in the Spring before new shoots pop up.
Leymus arenarius - Blue Lyme Grass
True to its name, this gorgeous grass has very blue stems and leaves. In the Spring, Blue Dune grows tall seed stalks that are yellow/tan in colour. This perennial will spread wasily, so it is best to keep an eye on this grass and divide it when needed. It is especially good for container gardens and pots, as then it remains contained and creates a lovely coloured accent.
Blue Lyme Grass can be used to control soil erosion on the edges of your garden, in sandy areas, or on hilly spots. Keep it in a dry and sunny location.
photo: James Gaither
Japanese Forest Grass
Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'
We especially love this grass because it thrives in shady spots! The beautiful variegated colours really brighten up any spot in the garden. It grows in dense mounds and will spread, so divide it in Spring if it gets too large.
This grass likes to be kept moist, which is easier in the shade or partial sun during the summer months. It works great as a groundcover or front border for garden beds.
Fireworks Fountain Grass
Pennisetum setaceum 'Fireworks'
The bold red colour makes this grass a jaw-dropping addition! The graceful plumes add movement and interest as well. While there are many wonderful fountain grass varieties, this one caught our eye with its bright red and purples.
This grass won't spread super quickly, and enjoys full to partial sun. Wonderful as a border or centrepiece, especially as it is quite a drought-tolerant plant
Black Mondo Grass
Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’
A classic, this dramatic grass has dark blades and works beautifully in planters or in the garden. We love. to pair it with bright limes for maximum contrast! Although Mondo isn't a 'true' grass (it is part of the Poaceae family) it still looks and performs like a grass in your designs.
Plant your Black Mondo Grass in full to part sun and keep it in moist, but well-drained, soil. It makes a beautiful ground cover or low border.