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Vegetation Resembling Grass & Decorative Grasses

Sep 15

Ornamental grasses and grass-like plants are widely used in residential landscaping due to their resilience, low care requirements, dramatic appearance, and diverse variety of colors, textures, and sizes.


Grass Species Range In Size & Form

Ornamental grasses serve the same purpose in gardens as other types of grasses and grass-like plants like sedges.

The vast majority of ornamental grasses are perennial grasses, which may thrive for two years or more. Annual grasses only live through one growing season, either because of their innate development pattern or because they are not hardy in our environment.

The growth patterns of grasses may be classified as clumping or spreading. Grass species with the ability to rapidly spread have stems that may grow either above or below ground. Care must be used while planting invasive grasses since they may quickly take over an area and kill out all of the other vegetation. Bunch grasses, sometimes known as clumping grasses, grow larger in diameter as they mature.

Depending on whether you're in the North or the South, ornamental grasses will either be considered a cool-season or a warm-season plant.

Flowers appear on cool-season grasses in the spring or early summer, after a growing season that starts in the fall or winter. They either become dormant or start to look worse when the temperatures rise in the summer. The bulk of Southern ornamental grasses are warm-season types. They rapidly expand over the spring and summer, flower in the late summer or early fall, and then become dormant during the winter.


Depending on the species, ornamental grasses may grow as tall as 15 feet or as short as 1 foot. Forms that may be achieved with grass range from little mounds to tall, vertical blades.


Components Of Decoration

Incredibly beautiful flower heads may be seen on many types of grass. Flowers may vary in size, hue, and even feel. There are several varieties of flowers and seed heads that may last for weeks or months, giving you plenty of options for the long winter months.

Foliage is visually appealing because it comes in a wide range of textures (from fine to coarse), forms (from softly arching to upright), and colors (from rich green to blue to red or purple to yellow and variegated). In the fall, many types of grass turn brilliant shades of yellow, orange, red, and even purple, before finally settling on brown or straw for the winter.

In addition, grasses provide visual texture and dimension to the garden that other plants can't match. They provide movement and rustling sounds to the scenery as they sway in the wind. Their rapid growth and aesthetic transformation throughout the year give seasonal interest.


Utilization In The Garden

Grasses may be employed in a wide range of landscape designs due to their diversity. Grasses with an interesting form, foliage color, or blooms might serve as accent plants. You may use them as a substitute for smaller shrubs, or plant them as part of a perennial border or in a pot. Large-scale plantings of certain types of grass may assist to avoid soil erosion and stabilization on slopes.


Growth Conditions

The needs of grasses vary widely, yet they share certain basic requirements. Ornamental grasses are notoriously difficult to grow without full sun and loose, aerated soil. Sun-loving grasses that have been there for a while are more resilient to drought. If they are grown on raised beds, it will be much simpler to provide adequate drainage. Grass plants could do OK on typical garden soil. Grass-like sedges and rushes thrive in moist conditions.

Only a few of grasses and grass-like plants are able to survive in partial to complete shade. Some grasses, such as sedges and Japanese forest grass, may thrive in partial shade.



The spring is the best time to plant warm-season ornamental grasses in South Carolina, while the fall is best for perennials. Cool-season grasses may be planted in the fall. Grass should be spaced as far apart as its eventual height will allow.

Most decorative grasses grown nowadays are grown in pots. If your plants are crowded in their pots, try separating the roots at the bottom and sides of the root ball. How the soil is worked depends on the kind of grass being planted. Although certain grasses may have trouble growing on disturbed soils, others may thrive. Growing grass of any kind well requires familiarity with the specific needs of that kind. Spread the roots out in the planting hole and press the soil around them to remove any air pockets before filling up the hole. The crown of the plant should be flush with the soil surface (the point where the roots and the top of the plant meet). As a rule of thumb, maintain the same soil level as in the original container.

Be sure to give your plants plenty of water after you've planted them to let the soil settle around their roots. Water well and often for the first several weeks after planting. It is true that many older grasses are drought-resistant, but this trait only manifests itself until the plant has a substantial root system in place.


In regards to watering, after your grass has been established, its watering needs will change based on the grass species, soil type, temperature, and other factors. The majority of ornamental grasses need at least an inch of water each week, whether from natural rainfall or artificial irrigation, in order to flourish. One of the best ways to water grasses is using a drip irrigation system. In addition to reducing the likelihood of foliar diseases, this method of watering conserves water by delivering it directly to the plant's roots.

The majority of ornamental grasses simply need a little quantity of fertilizer. The results of a soil test should inform any fertilizer applications. Grass that has been over-fertilized with nitrogen may be more susceptible to disease, develop excessively, and/or have weak stems that break easily.

Backing Off: Trim grasses before new growth starts in the spring. Many grasses are clipped back in the late winter/early spring because they look beautiful in the garden throughout the winter. Reduce stalks to a few inches above the ground for the best appearance. There are several approaches of grass trimming. To cut them down, you may use hand pruners or hedge shears, electric hedge shears, or a weed whacker fitted with a brush-cutting blade.

In contrast to annual grasses, evergreen grasses such as sedges (Carex) and sweet flag (Acorus) take a long time to recover after pruning. Remove any dead or diseased leaves from the plants by combing through the foliage in the spring.

Grasses need to be divided every three to four years at the absolute least. Ornamental grasses need to be planted at a distance apart or they will grow too thin and die out in the midst. It's easier to divide grasses into manageable pieces while they're still young. Overgrown grasses may be difficult to dig and divide.

Split and dig warm-season grasses before they start growing in the spring. Grass species that do not overwinter in warm climates should be divided early in the fall.

Most grasses have thick, tenacious root systems that might be difficult to dig up without a shovel, saw, or ax. Rinse the dirt away using a garden hose to expose the roots more easily, then transplant the healthy shoots from the clump's periphery. Don't let the soil dry out too much between plantings, and replant as quickly as possible. For further information on how to divide perennials, see HGIC 1150.



There aren't often pest and disease issues with ornamental grasses. Although rust may affect certain cool-season grasses, most plants bounce back quickly after pruning. In very unusual cases, anthrax might be a problem. Plants that are grown in unfavorable conditions, including low light, stagnant air, or too much fertilizer, are more likely to get infected.

Some grasses, such as invasive non-native grasses that spread rapidly by seed, may pose a problem if they are planted in the wrong environment. The roots of free-flowing grasses need to be hidden in a deep, bottomless container if you want to keep them under check. The use of non-native grasses that produce a lot of seed should be approached with care, especially in areas close to wildlife habitats or wetlands.