Ornamental grass is sometimes underrated but it has many impressive benefits. Needing little maintenance or watering, there are some truly stunning varieties to choose from. Learn when to plant ornamental grasses and how to care for them.
When to plant ornamental grasses: Ornamental grass should be planted in the spring so that it has enough time to establish itself before winter. You can start the grass by seed or in small plants. There are many varieties to choose from, with some small 3-foot types and other, towering 6-foot types. Ornamental grass, no matter the variety, prefers full sun and while you should water well after planting, once established it won’t need much care.
Planting Ornamental Grass in Different Climates
Ornamental grass might be hard to plant in a tropical climate. Most varieties are native to North America and prefer a dryer climate.
A dry climate is a great place to grow ornamental grass. These plants don’t need a lot of water.
There are many varieties of ornamental grasses that will thrive in a temperate climate. The natural moisture in the spring and fall, along with the cooler summer temperatures, means very little maintenance on your part.
A continental climate is great for ornamental grasses. Chose hardy varieties that will do fine in the colder winters.
There are some ornamental grasses that could do well in a polar climate. They just might not grow as large or as vibrant.
Benefits of Ornamental Grass
While many people instinctively turn to flowers for their garden, you can instead go a different route and plant ornamental grass. There are many reasons to pick this type of plant.
Save money on water
Most ornamental grasses are species native to the area you live in. This means that they will naturally grow in the same conditions in which they are planted in.
The result is that you won’t need to water them very much, which will save on your utility bill. Except for during heat waves, ornamental grass should be fine with the natural rainfall.
While some people love to putter around their garden, others want to simply plant something and walk away. With ornamental grass, there is very little maintenance you need to perform.
You can get a bit creative and divide your grass or cut back old foliage, but beyond that, there is little you need to worry about.
The problem with so many flowering plants is that they only last for a few months and sometimes, only a few weeks. If you want excitement in your garden during most of the year, ornamental grass can fill in this need.
Many varieties of ornamental grass will grow from spring to fall, and most will change their color as fall approaches. There are even some hardy varieties that will continue to grow in the winter.
Part of the ecosystem
Ornamental grass provides shelter for small animals, birds, and insects. It can also provide food and is a part of the larger ecosystem in your area.
Choosing Ornamental Grass Seeds
Feather Reed Grass
An incredibly popular variety, this ornamental grass can grow up to 6 feet tall. It prefers full sun and is a tough plant that will even stay upright during winter.
Adding a touch of color to any garden, this variety has shades of blue, green, gray, and pink. It will gradually turn purple and red in the fall and grows to about 3 feet tall.
Native to North America, this grass erupts into feathery plumage at the end of its 5-foot-tall length. It starts out green but will fade into a golden yellow or red in the fall.
With thicker stalks, long curled leaves, and tops that look like cattails, this variety will really stand out in your garden. It reaches about 5 feet tall and will attract plenty of types of birds to your yard.
Fiber Optic Grass
Named because it looks like fiber optics, this smaller variety of ornamental grass is best in planters so that its long blades can be seen as they bend over, eventually ending in tiny yellow spots.
How to Plant Ornamental Grass Seeds
Although there are many varieties of ornamental grass, almost all of them will prefer full sun. This will allow the grass to grow.
Even though their flowers are tiny, the grass is still a plant that will bloom before going to seed. Full sun will help the flowers bloom.
One of the many benefits of ornamental grass is that it is not picky about soil conditions. While it may be hard to start in very poor soil, as long as you have some nutrients, your grass will take hold and start to grow.
You can help your new ornamental grass out a bit by adding compost to the soil but if you aren’t able to take this step, don’t worry.
Timing and Planting
Most ornamental grass can be planted in the spring. Since ornamental grasses grow fairly easily, you can choose to start from seed directly in your garden.
Alternatively, you can purchase small grass plants and then plant them where you would like. For small plants, space about one or two feet between each other.
For seed, plant a bunch of seeds in the area you desire, and then later once the grass starts to grow, you can thin it out.
Spring is ideal for planting as it will allow your grass to become established before its first winter. However, if you live in a very mild area, you can plant in the fall.
If you are starting with small plants, dig a hole and place your plant in the hole so the top of its roots is level with the ground. Seeds should be planted under a very thin layer of dirt.
How to Water Ornamental Grass
For the most part, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about watering your ornamental grass. Most varieties are drought-resistant and if you plant grass that is native to the area, it will be able to thrive on regular rainfall.
After you plant your grass, though, you should water regularly. For small plants, this will allow the roots to spread out and take hold in the soil.
For ornamental grass seeds, you don’t want the seeds to dry out so continuous watering in the first week after planting is key.
Other than that, simply monitor your grass. If it starts to droop or changes color early in the summer, these are signs your ornamental grass is not getting enough water.
How to Grow Ornamental Grass
Ornamental grass usually won’t require stakes but this may be a way to keep your plant healthy. Some varieties can grow to be 6 feet tall and staking can help keep the grass upright.
If you have a variety that has thicker stems or large flowers, then provide stakes as a preventative measure.
Grass that grows in partial shade will be weaker than that grown in full sun, so stakes will be necessary. Furthermore, if you live in an area with a lot of wind, stakes are necessary to protect your grass.
Aim to add a layer of compost to your ornamental grass each year to keep the soil healthy. You can gently dig around the area and add the compost, as long as you are careful of the roots.
Grass that is planted in very poor soil might do well with chemical fertilizer. Stick to a basic 5-5-5 ratio.
How much you trim from your ornamental grass is entirely dependent on your preference. You can simply leave the whole plant alone and enjoy the unique beauty of the flowers in the fall.
You can also take cuttings of your grass for a unique flower arrangement inside your home.
While most ornamental grass will die off on its own accord during the winter, you might want to tidy it up. Fall is ideal as it will give the plant plenty of time to start producing new growth in the spring.
If you have a plant with very sharp edges, wear gloves to protect yourself as you cut it back.
How long does ornamental grass take to grow?
Ornamental grass does not take very long to grow. For seed, it will start to germinate in a week or two and then will be fully grown by the summer.
Those that purchase small grass plants will have them full-size in just a manner of weeks.
Even though your ornamental grass will die down over winter, it will come back to life in the spring.
Ornamental grass is a perfect, easy way to add some depth to your garden. There is a wide variety to choose from and you can select such features as height, color, and floral embellishments. Plant your ornamental grass in the spring and have it in your garden the whole year.