Top 5 Ornamental Grasses

Posted on October 12th, 2017

Lets face facts- there are way too many great ornamental grasses to hope to limit yourself to one type. Panicum, bluestems, miscathus, pennisetum- the list goes on and on. But after you’ve gone crazy and put sixteen of every type in your yard, how the heck do you tell them apart? Its actually easier than you’d think.

Pennisetums, or the fountain grasses, have a classic, bottlebrush seed head that almost looks like a rabbits foot or pipe cleaner. As an added bonus, these will produce a seed head earlier than any other large growing ornamental grass.

Panicum, or switch grass, is one of our native grasses. Its seed head is airy, loose, and almost transparent until you’re close by. Fun fact- One of the most popular varieties, Ruby Ribbons, was bred at UConn and features a great mix of purple and green colors to the grass.

Bluestems fall into two pretty self explanatory categories- the dwarf little bluestem and the larger growing big bluestem. Both produce a long, wiry seed head that opens sporadically down the line, while having the added benefit of being one of the only grasses to have vibrant purple to red fall color after the first frost.

Miscanthus, or maiden grasses, are often referred to as Zebra grasses, as many cultivars have a distinctive yellow stripe either horizontally or vertically along the grass. The seed heads have a braided texture and bright golden color that sways in the wind.

Muhly grass is the most unique of the bunch. Our current favorite, “Fast Forward,” has bright pink seed heads, but any and all varieties will produce a unique seed head that resembles a thick cloud of smoke, and holds onto morning dew to create a shimmering show at sunup every day.

Will O’Hara

Perennial Manager