Texas Cooperative Extension,
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

May, 2004

Mexican Feather Grass, Nasella (Stipa) tenuissima
Mexican Feather Grass, Nasella (Stipa) tenuissima

Ornamental Grasses

by the American Nursery and Landscape Association

Ornamental Grasses Add Flair To Landscapes--There is a trouble zone in your landscape -- a no-man's land between woods and yard, or between pond and garden. It is a transition area in need of plants that won't look out of place. They must be fast-growing, jumping from 2 to 6 feet in one season. You would like it to be disease- and drought-resistant too. It must be attractive, adding color and texture to your yard without costing a fortune.

According the American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA), ornamental grasses meet all these requirements. The trend toward naturalized landscapes is driving the increased use of grasses. From coastal regions to prairies to woodlands, there are grasses indigenous to your area. Many hardy native and adapted grasses will thrive under a wide variety of conditions.

Plant grasses responsibly, however, since a few varieties can become invasive in some areas. Confine invasive grasses to urban areas where seeds don't have as many opportunities to spread. Ask the professionals at your nearby garden center which ones they recommend. Grasses are a natural choice to stabilize soil and control erosion. Many home owners use grasses as accents in the landscape, planting one or two as specimens. Achieve a stronger effect with mass planing. Try 20 grasses of one type rather than a few plants of different varieties. Plant grasses as a backdrop for perennials or to screen an unattractive view.

In winter, while your garden sleeps, ornamental grasses add color, texture, and movement. Backlighting grasses is another way to wake up landscapes. Ornamental grasses are easy to maintain, but a few pointers ensure their success. Grasses are susceptible to crown rot, especially in winter. The majority prefer well drained soils in sunny location. In many regions, grasses fare best if planted in spring, rather than fall. Springtime planting allows grasses time to get established before winter. Nursery professionals can recommend planting schedules for your area. Cut back grasses to short clumps in early spring; consider dividing clumps every three years to benefit plant health. Maintenance is low, but the rewards are great when grasses grace your landscape.