Ornamental Grasses Chart

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The following chart identifies some of the more useful types of ornamental grasses. For each type, the genus, species, and variety (where applicable) appear at the top left, the common name appears at the top right, and a brief description appears below.

Key to Exposure Codes:

S - Sun
Sh - Shade
LSh - Light Shade
PSh - Partial Shade

Acorus graminus "Ogon" Golden Jap. Sweet Flag
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
N/A N/A 10" N/A PSh

Similar to above with gold-yellow variegation.

Acorus graminus "Variegatus"
Variegated Japanese Sweet Flag
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Yellow-green spathes N/A 8-10" N/A PSh

White & Green Variegation. Requires moist soil in part shade. More sun ok if wet. Slow spreading. Best @ water's edge.

Arundo donax Giant Reed Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Silver Aug 18-20' N/A Sun

Bamboo-like appearance, works well as screen, or near water. Blue-green leaves. May bloom in fall.

Calamagrostis acutiflora "stricta" Stiff Feather Reed Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Red-bronze to buff May-June 2' 4-5' Sun

More open, airy plumes than K. Foerster; Golden fall color. Striking vertical accent. Bloom holds well into fall.

Calamagrostis acutiflora (x) "Karl Foerster"
Feather Reed Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
golden spikes May-June 18-24" 3-4' Sun

Strong vertical line; plumes turn silvery by fall. Good winter silhouette

Calamagrostis arundomacea "Overdam"
Variegated Feather Reed Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
golden spikes May-June 12-18" 3' S-LSh

Foliage variegated; green & white. Semi-dwarf.

Calamagrostis brachytricha Korean Feather Reed Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Purple to Beige Sep-Nov 2' 3-4' S-LSh

 

Carex dolichostachya var. glabberima "Gold Fountains" Sedge, Golden
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
n.s. May 12" N/A PSh-Sh

Weeping, narrow blades, green/gold edge

Carex elata "Bowles Golden" Sedge, Golden Variegated
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
n.s. May 2-3' N/A PSh-Sh

Yellow leaf blade;thin green margin. Turns chartreuse by summer. Very showy, great @ water's edge, stunning with blue hosta.

Carex morrowii "Ice Dance" Sedge, Silver Variegated
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
n.s. May 12" N/A PSh-Sh

Spreading form, wider leaves. Green & white variegation.

Carex nigra Sedge, Black Flowering
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Thick black spikes June 6-9" (barely above foliage) PSh-Sh

Soft gray-green foliage, white underside. Spreads slowly. Semi-evergreen

Chasmanthium latifolium Northern Sea Oats
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Oat-like seedheads Late July 2-3' 4' S-Sh

Lighter green in sun. Best exposure is part-shade, but grows in full sun to moderate shade. Drooping clusters of flat seed-heads green in summer, turning golden.

Cortaderia selloana "Patagonia" Patagonia Pampas Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Fluffy, Cream Late Summer 5-6' 6-7' Sun

Bluish foliage; fat creamy white plumes; reputed to be most cold-hardy (Zone 6)

Cortaderia selloana "pumila" Dwarf Pampas Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Fluffy, Cream N/A 4-5' 5-6' Sun

Bold, Tropical effect. (Zone 7)

Cortaderia selloana Pampas Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
White, Feathery Late Summer 8'+ 9-12' Sun

Impressive, attractive, but not reliably winter hardy. Plant in protected location. (Zone 8)

Deschampsia caespitosa Tufted Hair Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Delicate, Airy Late June 18" 36" PSh

Semi-evergreen. Greens up quickly in spring. May go domant late summer. Used in the 'rough' at Pebble Beach GC.

Erianthus ravennae Plume Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Silvery Late Summer 4-6' 8-14' Sun

Hardy, easy to grow. Imposing, large grass. Taller; more open than Pampas.

Festuca glauca "Elijah Blue" Blue Fescue
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Wispy June 8-10" 12" Sun

Spiky neat mound of blue-gray foliage. Can be used for edging, massing, ground cover. Needs well drained soil.

Hakonechloa macra "Aureola" Golden Hakone Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
n.s. summer 1-2' N/A PSh

Elegant, choice accent. Horizonantal, weeping form. Great with hosta. Likes moist, rich, well-drained soil.

Helichtotrichon sempervirens "Sapphire" Blue Oat Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Insignificant Mid-summer 2' 2-1/2' Sun

Glaucous blue color. Thicker leaves, more substance than festuca. Attractive, distinctive foliage.

Imperata cylindrica "Red Baron" Japanese Blood Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
none none 1-2' N/A Sun

great for massing, color intensifies in fall. Spreads slowly.

Miscanthus floridulus (Syn. giganteus) Giant Chinese Silver Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Reddish turning White Oct 10-14' 12-15' Sun

Excellent, fast growing screen. Clumps cut to ground in spring reach 10' by June.

Miscanthus sinensis "Adagio" Adagio Silver Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Pink, turning White Aug-Sep 3-4' 4' Sun

Narrow, silvery gray foliage. Sturdy, arching form.

Miscanthus sinensis "Autumn Light"
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
N/A Sep 6-8' 8' Sun

Dark green foliage. Broader leaf than gracillimus. Good yellow fall color. Robust grower.

Miscanthus sinensis "Cabaret"
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Copper-Gold Sep-Oct 6' 7' S-LSh

Broad green leaves, wide cream stripes; Upright growth. One of the best new grasses.

Miscanthus sinensis "Cosmopolitan"
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Silver Sep 6-8' 7-9' S-LSh

Very broad green leaves, White margins. Upright, non-floppy habit. (Improved form of 'variegatus')

Miscanthus sinensis "Dixieland" Dwarf Variegated Miscanthus
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
N/A N/A 3-4' N/A S-LSh

Similar to Variegated Miscanthus, but much shorter.

Miscanthus sinensis "Goliath" Goliath Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Pink turning Silver Aug-Sep 6-7' 10-12' Sun

Wide, bright green leaves. Large, lush grass for fast screen, bold accent.

Miscanthus sinensis "Gracillimus" Maiden Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Red Sep-Oct 6-7' 7' Sun

Slender, arching dark green foliage. Elegant vase-shape. Fine texture, showy flowers.

Miscanthus sinensis "Graziella" Graziella Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Rose-Silvery White July-Aug 4-5' 6-7' Sun

More upright than gracillimus, Early bloom; flowers well above foliage. Orange fall color.

Miscanthus sinensis "Little Nicky" Dwarf Zebra Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
White July-Aug 3-4' 4' Sun

(Syn. Hinjo) Similar to Zebra grass, shorter, more compact.

Miscanthus sinensis "Morning Light"
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Red Aug-Sep 4-5' 5-6' Sun

Thin green leaves edged with white. Silvery appearance. Strongly arching habit.

Miscanthus sinensis "Puenktchen" Little Dot Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Copper Sep 5-6' N/A Sun

Dark green foliage w/ yellow stripes. Similar to Zebrinus, but has finer, thinner leaves.

Miscanthus sinensis "Silberfeder" Silver Feather Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Silver Aug-Sep 5-6' 7-9' Sun

Flowers earlier than species. Flowers held high above foliage. Thin silver midrib.

Miscanthus sinensis "Silberpfeil" Silver Arrow Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Silver N/A 5-7' N/A Sun

 

Miscanthus sinensis "Strictus" Porcupine Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Pink Aug-Sep 6-8' 8' Sun

Horizontal bands of yellow on green leaves. Stiff, upright form.

Miscanthus sinensis var. purpurescens Flame Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Magenta, turning White Aug-Sep 3-4' 4-5' Sun

Mid-green foliage turns bright orange-red in fall.

Miscanthus sinensis "Variegatus" Variegated Japanese Silver Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Pale Pink turning Beige Sep 5-6' 6-8' S-LSh

Foliage white-edged, green stripe in center. Loose, arching habit.

Miscanthus sinensis "Yaku Jima" Dwarf Maiden Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Silver Aug 3-4' 4-5' Sun

Narrow leaves, Clumping habit. Early, profuse bloomer. Flowers held well above foliage. Stands up over winter.

Miscanthus sinensis "Zebrinus" Zebra Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
pinkish copper Sep 5-6' 6-8' Sun

Striking horizontal bands of yellow on dark green leaves. Arching, vase-shaped habit.

Opiopogon japonicus "nana" Dwarf Mondo Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
n.s. N/A 3" N/A PSh-Sh

Very dark green dwarf groundcover.

Opiopogon plansicarpus "nigrescens" Black Mondo Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
n.s. N/A 6" N/A PSh-Sh

Groundcover, unusual near-black foliage.

Panicum virgatum "Cloud Nine" Blue Switch Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Airy, light, golden Aug 6' N/A Sun

Tallest panicum. Clouds of airy flowers.

Panicum virgatum "Haense Herms" Red Switch Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Airy, light, golden July-Aug 36-42" 4-5' Sun

Green summer foliage, tips develop reddish tint in late summer, Red-Orange fall color.

Panicum virgatum "Heavy Metal" Blue Switch Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Airy, light, golden July-Aug 3-4' 4-5' Sun

Stiff, upright metallic blue foliage. Yellow fall color. Hardy, durable grass.

Panicum virgatum "Prairie Sky" Blue Switch Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Airy, light, golden Aug 3-4' 4' Sun

Bluest panicum. Breaks dormancy earliest. Stiff, upright form, persists well in winter.

Panicum virgatum "Shenandoah" Red Switch Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Airy, light, golden Aug 3' 3-4' Sun

Blue-green foliage turns reddish by June.

Pennisetum alopecuroides "Cassian" Dwarf Fountain Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Dark Brown Aug-Oct 18" 24" Sun

Leaves tinged red in fall. Compact selection.

Pennisetum alopecuroides "Hameln" Dwarf Fountain Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Rose-Copper Tan July-Aug 2-3' 2-3' Sun

Compact selection. Neat mounded form. Great accent, for massing or groundcover.

Pennisetum alopecuroides "Little Bunny" Mini Fountain Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Honey-beige July-Aug 6-8" 12" Sun

Finely textured foliage. Neat mounded shape. Upright plumes. Great edging, groundcover.

Pennisetum alopecuroides "Moudry" Black Flowered Ftn Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Dk Brown Sep 2-3' 2-3' Sun

Striking plumes, neat mounded shape.

Pennisetum alopecuroides Fountain Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Rose-Copper Tan Aug-Oct 3' 3-4' Sun

Graceful, arching mound. Bright glossy green foliage. Soft foxtail flowers.

Pennisetum orientale Oriental Fountain Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Pink turning White July-Oct 2-3' 3' S-LSh

Fluffy, delicate plumes, long bloom time. Softer, more open habit. Bluish-grey-green foliage.

Pennisetum setaceum "Rubrum" Red Fountain Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Pink-Purple June-Frost 4' 4-5' Sun

Deep Maroon foliage. Outstanding accent. NOT HARDY; treat as annual here.

Phalaris arundinacea "Feesy" Ribbon Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
White, n.s. June 2' 3' PSh

Finer foliage than Picta. Slight pink variegation on green & white striped leaves. Ribbon grasses are aggressive, rhizomateus spreaders which tolerate part shade, moist or poor soil. May be mown back in mid-summer to freshen foliage.

Phalaris arundinacea "Picta" Ribbon Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
White, n.s. May-June 18-24" 2-3' PSh

Bright green with white stripes.

Schizachyrium scoparium "The Blues" Little Bluestem
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
Wispy July 12" 2-3' Sun

Tough, easy to grow native. Bright pink-orange fall color holds well into winter. Bluish foliage, slightly taller, more open than festuca, slightly wider leaves. Handles heat, humidity & drought.

Sorghastrum nutans "Sioux Blue" Indian Grass
Plume Bloom Time Foliage Hgt Plume Hgt Exposure
gold, showy Summer 4-6' N/A Sun

One of the most beautiful native grasses. Bright blue foliage, stiff, upright growth. Great naturalized, as specimen.

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