AUBURN, Ala. – If you are planning landscape renovation, consider adding ornamental grasses. The term ornamental grasses is used to describe all grasslike plants including sedges, reeds, rushes and many others. All of the varieties and species have become popular in recent years.
“Ornamental grasses are highly resistant to problems caused by diseases and insects and require little to no pruning,” said Mike McQueen, a regional Alabama Extension agent in home grounds, gardens and home pests. These grasses also are tolerant to heat and drought. The two main requirements of grasses are full sun and a well-drained soil.
Ornamental grass species grow to various sizes. Some grow to 10 to 15 feet. Others are dwarf plants and are mainly used for ground covers. Most ornamental grasses can stand alone when used as a focal point or as an accent plant, especially when the plumes of several species can be seen. They also can serve other functions, such as a unique screen for privacy.
Types of Ornamental Grasses
Here is a list of some grasses available with a description of their forms and growth habits:
Pampas grass is hardy throughout Alabama, growing in upright clumps of dense tufts with numerous long, narrow strap-like leaves. It often will reach 10 to 15 feet in height. It has a fountain-like appearance when seen from a distance. Long stems bear the large, showy 2- to 3-foot silvery white flower plumes that appear in the fall, towering above the leaf mass. It grows in a variety of soils and gets best results when planted in well-drained areas with full sun. The grass grows best when grown as a single specimen, but several can be grouped together for a soft-looking background accent or as a screen. Many people find the most appealing feature of this plant to be its handsome fountain-like profile. Use dried plumes as winter decoration. Cut plumes in the fall when they are fully developed. Place them in a container of sand to dry indoors.
One of the most popular ornamentals in the South, this grass has many cultivars with specific growth habits and landscapes characteristics. Maiden grass can reach heights of 6 to 8 feet.
This grass has leaves banded with yellow and reaches heights up to 10 feet.
Valued for its colorful fruit heads, the foliage is about an eighth of an inch wide. The gracefully arching lines of this ornamental’s foliage make it excellent for any garden, growing up to 6 feet tall.
If you are looking for some fall color, muhly grass produces fluffy pink to purple flower stalks. A white form also is available. This grass works well in group plantings. This rich green ornamental spreads by underground creeping rhizomes, growing from 2 to 5 feet during spring and summer. It dries during the fall and in the winter dies to the ground. The seed heads from this beautiful ornamental are excellent in dried arrangements and in the landscape they gracefully dance in the breeze.
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