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How to Choose Ornamental Grasses


There are many different and beautiful ornamental grasses available. They run the gamut of colors, from red to green to blue to purple. They also come in a variety of sizes, heights, and shapes. Choosing which the best options for your yard can be challenging, here are a few tips to guide your choices and make it a little easier. 

Do You Want Ornamental Grass to be a Focal Point?

If you’d like your ornamental grass to be the center of attention, you’ll want to choose something with a big personality and presence. Ornamental grasses that form clumps are great as focal points because they tend to stay put, forming a nice thick column or mound of grass, without taking over the whole garden. Choose a grass with a color or texture that complements, but stands out from the rest of your landscaping. 

Clumping grasses include Karl Forester Grass, Fountain grass, maiden grass, and switchgrass. 

Feather Reed Grass in landscape Ted Lare
Do You Want Ornamental Grass to Look Good In the Winter?

Ornamental grasses can add beautiful color, texture, and height to your yard during a long Des Moines winter. If you’re choosing grass for winter interest, you’ll probably want to think about color and height. Taller grasses with gorgeous fall colors like dark red, purple, or vibrant yellow are great choices for winter interest. Grasses with seedheads also look beautiful against a backdrop of snow. 

Ornamental grasses that can stand up to the wind and snow yet still look great include switchgrass, maiden grass, feather reed grass, Indian Grass and big bluestem.

privacy in yard with Fountain Grass Ted Lare
Do You Want to Create a Privacy Screen or Backdrop for Other Plants?

If you’d like to add depth to your yard, a hint of privacy, or perhaps a soft textured background to set off other feature plants in your garden, ornamental grasses are a great choice. You may consider grasses that spread via runners as they’ll spread to create a seamless wall of grass. Keep in mind, though, that the challenge with grasses that spread via rhizome is they can take over a garden bed fairly quickly. If you choose to spread grasses, you’ll want to make sure you keep them under control, so they don’t overpower your feature plants. 

Great grasses for screening or backdrops include zebra grass, Ravenna grass, big bluestem, fountain grass, and switchgrass.

small ornamental grass as ground cover Ted Lare
Do You Want Ornamental Grasses to Fill in as Ground Cover Around Perennials?

There are lots of tall ornamental grasses out there, but there are also some gorgeous short varieties that work as beautiful and low maintenance ground covers in perennial beds. This is where grasses that spread by rhizomes are an excellent option. 

Grasses like Indiangrass, sedges, blue grama, small fescues, Japanese forest grasses, and lovegrass are excellent options for shorter ornamental grasses that add beautiful texture and color to your yard.


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Ornamental grasses are a beautiful addition to any landscape. They add visual interest as well as texture and color variation. Most ornamental grasses are also very low maintenance and drought tolerant. So they’re easy to care for and look good for more than one season. Ask our landscape design experts at the garden center if you’d like some more help choosing the right ornamental grasses for your yard.



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