See how to use beautiful, easy-care clumping grasses in garden beds and pots
1 of 11Steven Gunther
How to use ornamental grasses
An abundance of grasses ― including golden pheasant's tail and green Miscanthus transmorrisonensis ― lends softness and movement to this garden, while agaves and other succulents add starchier textures.
So how to get started? Learn the difference between good plants and weeds. Browse through nurseries and look through books, such as Landscaping with Ornamental Grasses (Sunset Publishing Corporation, 2002; $15).
Then choose varieties of grasses that are appropriate for where you live—some are frost tender, others can be invasive in some areas. Most grasses are sold as container-grown plants in 1- and 5-gallon cans.
Pennisetum messiacum ‘Red Bunny Tails’ captures sunlight in its seed heads while at its base, two plants of ‘Crackling Fire’ million bells bear blooms in smoldering autumn hues
4 of 11Brown Cannon III
Gardening with ornamental grasses: A sweet scent
Chasmanthium latifolium and Acorus gramineus ‘Licorice’ get into a delicious tangle in an oval gray stone container.
When bruised the acorus’s leaves have a licorice scent.
5 of 11Brown Cannon III
Gardening with ornamental grasses: About lime
Two kinds of plants in two shades of green create the spare look of a Japanese garden in a pot.
Mounding Scotch moss (Sagina subulata ‘Aurea’) planted from flats spreads a soft chartreuse carpet around a cluster of three upright ‘Golden Rocket’ rush (Baumea rubiginosa ‘Variegata’), planted from 1-gallon cans.
Mondo grass surrounds the faux stone pot (it’s really made from a mix of clay and fiberglass).
6 of 11Brown Cannon III
Gardening with ornamental grasses: Green on green
Baby bamboo (Pogonatherum paniceum) spreads a canopy of lacy foliage over deep green Irish moss in this planting that recalls a Northwest shade garden.
7 of 11Caren Alpert
Gardening with ornamental grasses: Purple haze
Chocolate purple seed heads top Chondropetalum tectorum alongside Miscanthus transmorrisonensis in this meadow.
8 of 11Brown Cannon III
Gardening with ornamental grasses: Soft silver
Australian silver rush (Juncus polyanthemos) is paired with velvety foliage of Plectranthus ‘Heigh-Ho Silver’ in a square zinc container.
9 of 11Brown Cannon III
Gardening with ornamental grasses: Spun gold
A single Pennisetum setaceum ‘Red Riding Hood’ fills a glazed sea green container. Pinkish blond seed heads shimmer atop the dwarf fountain grass.
10 of 11Caren Alpert
Gardening with ornamental grasses: wild as the wind
Creeping meadow of wild rye grass (Leymus triticoides), also called ‘Grey Dawn’.
11 of 11Brown Cannon III
Gardening with ornamental grasses: A hint of blue
Slender veldt grass (Pennisetum spathiolatum) fans out above a plump rosette of echeveria and mounding Plectranthus ‘Blue Yonder’ crowned with delicate sprays of blue flowers.