I must admit, ornamental grasses are one of my favourite summer-time plants. If you're time starved as much as I am, then the low maintenance, easy care nature of these ornamental grasses is for you. They look fantastic when planted solo in a pot or when massed in a garden. If you forget to water, their usually ok with it. When the end of the season comes, some will die out for you, while others can just be trimmed back until next season.
Grasses and grass-like plants are generally divided into cool season and warm season varieties. Cool season types look best in spring and fall when temperatures are lower. Warm season grasses are at their best when the temperatures are warm in summer but generally die back or aren't that attractive at other times of the year.
While there are hundreds of species and varieties, a few remain popular year after year. These are some of my favourite summertime grasses:
Purple Fountain Grass
Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’
This extremely popular drought-tolerant, warm season grass is a favourite amongst many gardeners. Purple fountain grass forms upright, arching clumps of purplish-maroon blades topped by long, fluffy, rose-red flower spikes from summer through fall. Flowers turn buff as they mature. Beautiful as a landscape specimen or when massed in groups. Provides quick annual colour in our climate. Yes, this means it will not survive our winters even though it is perennial in warmer climates. Best when planted in full sun and once established needs only occasional water. Grows to 2-4ft tall and wide. Hardy in zones 8-11
Mexican Feather Grass
Also known as Nassella tenuissima, Mexican Feather grass forms a graceful clump of finely textured green foliage. No other grass is able to dance in the wind as can this one. The entire plant turns golden in autumn. Feathery golden flowers appear from June through September. Grows 18-24 inches tall and 12-18 inches wide. Excellent in mass plantings, borders, rock gardens or containers. Easy care and low maintenance. Best when planted in full sun in any well drained soil. Hardy to zone 7.
Japanese Blood Grass
Imperata cylindrical ‘Red Baron’
This warm season perennial grass forms loose tufts of strikingly coloured foliage. Blades begin emerald-green and with increasing become tipped with garnet red. Foliage eventually becomes solid, fiery ruby red. Rarely seen flowers are fluffy and white when they appear in May and June. This plant is stunning when back-lit. Deer resistant. A great plant in gardens and containers. Grows up to 16 inches in height and 12 inches in width. Best when grown in full sun in fertile, moist soils. Mass plant for great effect.
Black Mondo Grass
Black Mondo grass is a landscapers favourite. Foliage starts green but quickly turns a dark black colour. Pinkish white blooms appear in late summer followed by shiny, black, inedible fruit. Excellent in gardens, containers and even as a specimen or accent in the garden. As they say, everything looks good with black. Best when grown in full sun or part shade. Will reach up to 12 inches in height and width. Hardy in zones 6-9.
Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’
This popular grass-like evergreen plant is renowned for its ability to brighten up gardens and containers with its variegated yellow leaves. Can also be used to edge a space or in a rock garden. Generally prefers to be planted in part sun to part shade in moist, rich soil. ‘Evergold’ is a well behaved, clumping plant that is ideal for low maintenance and easy care gardens. Grows 6-8 inches in height and 8-12 inches in spread. Hardy in zones 6-9.
Fireworks Fountain Grass
Pennisetum x advena ‘Fireworks’
This relatively new, spectacular warm season grass has narrow, upright, arching leaves that are a kaleidoscope of hot pink, green, white and dark burgundy. Fluffy bottlebrush flowers are a deep burgundy and sway in the wind. Deer resistant, drought tolerant once established and makes a nice cut flower. Although stunning, this plant is a tender perennial (hard in zones 7-9) and odds are it won’t survive our winters. Most gardeners treat it like an annual; expecting to replace it each year. It is truly striking in containers and in the garden. Best when planted in full sun in moist, but well drained soil. Grows to 24 inches in height and spread.
Belindas Find Hook Sedge
Uncinia rubra ‘Belinda’s Find’
This showy New Zealand native perennial grass forms a clump of elegantly arching, shiny dark red-bronze leaves that have a bright cherry red margins. Flower stalks appear in June and July. Well suited for borders, containers, edging, woodland and shade gardens. Loves moist areas. Tolerates full sun or shade. Grows up to 12 inches high and wide. Hardy in zones 8-9. Provide some winter protection in cool areas.
Other notable summer grasses include:
- Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana)
- Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa)
- Maiden Grass / Silver Grass (Miscanthus)
- Blue Oat Grass (Helictotrichon)
- Blue Fescue (Festuca)
- Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)
Art's Nursery carries a large and diverse selection of ornamental grasses year round. As always, please call ahead to confirm availability as the stock on hand changes regularly. Please feel free to call us at 604.882.1201 or visit us in person and we'd be happy to show you some beautiful summertime grasses.