Ornamental grass adds texture and movement to the garden and provide form for most of the garden year. An added benefit is that for nearly any garden site or project you have in mind, there is an ornamental grass that’s perfect for it. From container plantings to wide-open meadows and everything in between, ornamental grasses are an often-underutilized plant. So, let’s say you are in the market for some tall grasses (perhaps you’re creating that meadow, or you need to block a view or provide some height at the back of your border) — what are your options? As it turns out, many — but here are our top 5 favorites.
Garden Adventures: The Tall Tale on 5 Tall Grass Varieties
1. ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass: (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’) This one is my hands’ down favorite because of its upright growth habit. If you’ve got an area on your property that tends to hold moisture, consider ‘Karl Foerster.’ While it’s only 12-18” wide, it grows from 3-5’ tall and soars up to 6’ when the seedheads emerge in the summer. And the fall color on this one? Amazing with purple-green flower plumes that ripen to a blazing gold color. USDA Zones 5-9.
2. ‘Feather Pink’ pampas grass: (Cortaderia selloana ‘Feather Pink’) You want tall? You got it. ‘Feather Pink’ grows up to 12 feet tall by up to 7 foot wide, so be sure you give it plenty of room to grow at planting time. The pink flower plumes make their appearance in late summer and last into the winter, but beware — the grass blades have sharp edges and can be invasive in some areas, so check before you plant. USDA Zones 8-10.
3. Switchgrass: (Panicum virgatum) ‘Prairie Sky’ is a stunning taller grass that has a strong columnar form, growing 4-6’ tall and 2-3’ wide. The leaves are an intriguing and unusual powdery blue shade that morph into yellow in the fall, with dark red flower plumes from midsummer to late fall or early winter. USDA Zones 4-9.
4. Maidengrass: (Miscanthus sinensis) Maidengrasses have a form that is not quite upright but not exactly weeping — it’s more of a graceful fountain shape, which I adore. Look for variegated ‘Dixieland’ that grows 4-5’ tall, or ‘Stictus’ which is actually a bit more upright but with subtle horizontally- striped leaves. USDA Zones 5-9.
5. Big Bluestem: (Andropogon gerardii) There are lots of different Big Bluestems out there, but I love ‘Indian Warrior’ for its bulletproof growth in drier soils. This grass is about 5-6’ tall with late summer flower stalks and leaves that ripen from smokey purple to purplish-red in the fall. USDA Zones 3-9.