Great Grasses and Grass-like Plants
Put away your mower and relax to the rustle and sway of ornamental grasses. Plant your own sun-drenched meadow or enjoy their graceful forms and year-round color along walkways and in containers. A tidy low-maintenance choice around pools and ponds, ornamental grasses are just as lovely in rock gardens. There are so many forms, colors, textures, and sizes to choose from, this list is the beginning of your adventure into adding motion, color and sound to your landscape.
Pennisetum 'Fairy Tails' – The iridescent, pink-flushed, golden brown "tails" on vertical flower stems wag excitedly in the breeze. The strongly upright habit of the clump-forming, semi-evergreen perennial grass provides an architectural element to the garden. Attractive finely textured grey-green foliage withstands both heat and drought.
Cyperus papyrus – Yes, this is the Papyrus of ancient Egypt. Tall vividly green stems to 10 feet are topped with tufts of thread-like rays. Accustomed to growing along the banks of the Nile, use this moisture-loving plant as an exotic accent for water gardens or water-filled containers/tubs. Plant in a sunny location to keep the tall stems stiff and rigid.
Pennisetum setaceum 'Eaton Canyon' ('Red Riding Hood') – Such a pretty little fountain grass. Narrow red-bronze foliage is beautiful all year but the real show starts in late summer with arching plumes of magenta-red flowers that resemble bouncy fox tails. Plumes fade to a straw color in fall, picking up the golden glow of the sun. This dwarf is great in landscape or as a showy specimen in containers.
Equisetum hyemale – This primitive reed-like perennial adds interest to water features. The tall jointed stems of Horsetail are bright green and add a smooth vertical interest among tropical plants. Best used in unperforated containers, troughs or contained ponds; otherwise they can become invasive.
Liriope muscari 'Silvery Sunproof' – The bold and the beautiful are combined in this Lilly Turf. The glossy dark green foliage has cream to yellow stripes that provide a bold contrast to the soft lilac-purple flower stocks in summer. Flowers sway above the foliage and resemble grape hyacinth. Keep moist in hot weather to maintain the bold leaf variegation.
Ophiopogon japonicus 'Nana' – This pint-size performer looks terrific between pavers and stepping stones. The deep green color, short curving leaves, and resistance to foot traffic and disease make this Dwarf Mondo Grass a fantastic no-mow grass substitute. Even better, it will not spread across paving like other groundcovers.
Phormium 'Bronze Baby' – Add some polish to your garden with intensely colored bronze foliage. This cultivar of New Zealand Flax has fans of reddish-brown leaves with orange margins and deeper brown undersides. The glossy foliage has an upright form that arches gracefully at the tips. Not exactly a "baby" growing to 4-6 feet tall.
Thamnochortus insignis – This gentle giant prefers the open air where its graceful arching stems rustle and dance in the wind. Tidy and upright, the beautiful structure of Thatching Reed is also quite handsome in containers near entryways. Tall but never overpowering, the slim reed-like stems of this restio can grow to 8 feet tall and wide. Golden-brown inflorescences bob on top of the stems from July to August.
Helictotrichon sempervirens (Avena s.) – Cool and calm, the blue-gray foliage of Blue Oat Grass adds elegance and shine to borders, containers and moonlit gardens. In late spring, tall graceful stems bloom with delicate oat-like flowers that age to tawny brown by midsummer.
Carex buchananii – This copper-colored beauty takes on a burnished glow when backlit by the sun. Leather Leaf Sedge forms clumps of upright finely textured foliage that curl downward at the tips. Showcase in a border as an excellent color contrast to silver or blue-foliaged plants or plant in mass for a windswept meadow-like effect.