Ornamental Grasses

“What ornamental grasses can I include in my garden?”

Ornamental grasses are becoming a very popular addition to many landscapes. They can be used as accents, borders, or in mass to fill in areas. These plants are generally low maintenance and offer more than just attractive foliage and flowers. Enjoy the movement and sound that grasses bring to your landscape. Even in the winter when the foliage is dead and brown they offer character and movement.

ornamental grass

Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’

Fall is a good time to establish ornamental grasses. Raised beds provide the ideal site because well drained soils are preferred by most of the ornamental grass species. Placement should be in full sun, although light shade is tolerated by some species such as Upland Sea Oats, Miscanthus and Pennisetum. Planting when soil temperatures are warm will result in a greater success rate. Space plants to give each an area as wide as the expected height.

The main cultural requirements involve cutting back to near ground level when unsightly or at winter’s end, lightly fertilizing in spring and late summer, and dividing every 3-4 years. Annual varieties will benefit from monthly grooming to promote maximum flowering. You can prune anytime in the winter but why not enjoy them as long as possible and time your pruning just prior to new growth emerging. Be careful to not prune too close to the ground. Leave about 3-4 inches of dormant grass exposed. They can be pruned easily with electric shears or even a small chainsaw.


Recommended Ornamental Grasses (not an exhaustive list)

Common Name – Scientific Name

  • Dwarf Pampas Grass – Cortaderia selloana ‘Pumila’
  • Purple Muhly Grass – Muhlenbergia capillaris
  • Maiden Grass – Miscanthus sinensis
  • Fountain Grass – Pennisetum alpeuroides
  • Upland Sea Oats – Chasmanthium latifolium

By Bethany O’Rear, Regional Extension Agent, Alabama Cooperative Extension System.  Contact Bethany at bethany@aces.edu.


The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) operates as the primary outreach organization for the land-grant functions of Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. ACES is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity and the diversity of its workforce.  Educational programs of ACES serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or national origin.


Alabama Extension

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System operates as the primary outreach organization for the land-grant functions of Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities and answers home-gardeners' questions each week on Birmingham Gardening Today.

2 thoughts on “Ornamental Grasses

  1. I bought and ornemintal grass from your SALE last month and have lost the name tag. It is very thin stems almost hairs. Do not know if it requires sun or shade or moist or dry conditions HELP

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