Tune up your garden with some late-season pizzazz! Grasses can provide color, texture, structure, and movement in your landscape with minimal maintenance. Discover the best ornamental grasses to grow, which perennials and shrubs compliment them, and their basic care and maintenance needs.

Grass Care & Maintenance

Winter dormant grasses turn a straw color in winter, but remain intact and above ground, providing winter interest and movement to the garden. They can be cut back in late fall or left up through winter to be cut back in early spring just as or before new growth begins. Some grasses take on pretty fall colors before going dormant for winter such as Switchgrass and Japanese Forest Grass.

Evergreen grasses occasionally need to be “combed” or roughly raked to pull out old/dead foliage—most evergreen grasses seldom need to be cut back to the ground and often do not respond well to this practice.

Most grasses have a clumping growth habit and increase in diameter each year; often, after 3–5 years the clump begins to appear dead or thin in the center—this is a great indication that it is time to divide, and this can be done in late fall or early spring before new growth begins.

In addition to the grass foliage, many varieties have showy “flowers” and seed heads that provide late summer/fall interest. Most grasses are deer-resistant, and many are drought tolerant once established; see specific lists for best selection.

Ornamental grasses can be fertilized with lawn or turf fertilizer (NO Weed & Feed).

Carex Feather Falls

Genus to Common Names

  • Acorus: Sweet Flag
  • Anemanthele: Pheasant grass
  • Calamagrostis: Feather reed grass
  • Carex: Sedge
  • Chasmanthium: Sea oats
  • Cortaderia: Pampas grass
  • Festuca: Fescue
  • Hakonechloa: Japanese forest grass
  • Helictotrichon: Blue oat grass
  • Imperata: Blood grass
  • Juncus: Rush
  • Miscanthus: Maiden grass
  • Ophiopogon ‘Nigrescens’: Black Mondo Grass
  • Panicum: Switch grass
  • Pennisetum: Fountain grass

Tall Grasses for Privacy/Screening

  • Calamagrostis acutiflora
  • Cortaderia selloana
  • Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’
  • Miscanthus sinensis ‘Malepartus’
  • Miscanthus sinensis ‘Sarabande’
  • Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’
  • Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’
  • Pennisetum alopecuroides
  • Panicum virgatum ‘Dallas Blues’

Drought-Tolerant Grasses

  • Anemanthele lessoniana
  • Carex buchanaii
  • Carex comans
  • Carex flagellifera
  • Carex testacea
  • Chasmanthium latifolium
  • Cortaderia sp.
  • Festuca sp.
  • Helictotrichon semp.
  • Luzula sylvatica
  • Muhlenbergia sp.
  • Pennisetum sp.
  • Schizachyrum scoparium
  • Stipa tenuissima

Grasses for Shade

  • Acorus
  • Calamagrostis (part shade)
  • Carex elata ‘Bowles Golden’ (part shade)
  • Carex morowii
  • Deschampsia ‘Northern Lights’
  • Hakenochloa
  • Liriope
  • Luzula
  • Millium effusum
  • Ophiopogon

Evergreen Grasses

  • Acorus
  • Anemanthele lessoniana (Pheasant Grass)
  • Carex buchanaii
  • Carex comans
  • Carex flageliffera
  • Carex morowii ‘Ice Dance’
  • Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’
  • Carex phyllocephala ‘Sparkler’
  • Carex testecea
  • Cortaderia
  • Festuca
  • Helictotrichon
  • Juncus ‘Spiralis’
  • Juncus ‘Unicorn’
  • Juncus effuses
  • Liriope
  • Ophiopogon ‘Nigrescens’ (Black Mondo Grass)

Running Grasses

*can become invasive; suggested for container growing to control spread; we choose not to carry many of these

  • Arundo donax
  • Elymus glaucus
  • Hakonechloa
  • Imperata
  • Luzula sylvatica
  • Phalaris (Ribbon grass/Canary reed grass)
  • Equisetum (Horsetail Rush)


Grasses for Containers

*most evergreen grasses make great container plants!

  • Carex elata ‘Bowles Golden’ (semi-evergreen)
  • Equisetum sp.
  • Hakonechloa
  • Imperata
  • Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’
  • Stipa tenuissma

Annual Grasses for Containers:

  • Pennisetum glaucum ‘Purple Majesty’
  • Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’
  • Scirpus filiformus
  • Cyperus papyrus

Grasses for Raingardens & Bioswales

  • Acorus sp.
  • Carex nigra
  • Carex obnupta (PNW Native)
  • Deschampsia cespitosa
  • Juncus sp.
  • Miscanthus sinensis

How to Extend Bloom Time or Get Perennials to Re-Bloom

Well-watered and properly fertilized plants tend to perform better than those that receive little care. On average, mid-late August should be your last feeding for the perennial garden for the year. Applications of kelp meal may be done later and may increase winter hardiness of plants.

Many spring-blooming perennials will repeat bloom in late summer or fall if they are deadheaded promptly after the spring flowers fade. Delphinium and Foxglove are good examples of this; when the spring flower stalk is removed after flowering, the plant can reinvest its energy in itself, producing a more lush plant that will usually form a flower spike for later in the season. The second flowering is often slightly smaller or less showy than the first one.


*also applies to late-blooming Asters, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ (upright types), and tall-growing or dinner-plate style Dahlias

Chrysanthemums seem to be the official signal of fall. Although sold as seasonal color, most are winter hardy enough to return in the spring if grown in well-draining soil. For mums that return the following spring, they need some special care to ensure that they grow bushy and compact and wait to flower until late summer or fall.

To best care for perennial mums:

  • Begin pinching back the top third of growth when the plant has reached 6 inches tall (prune off the top 2 inches)
  • Continue doing this cutting back by one-third every 3 to 4 weeks until around the 4th of July when you should leave the plant alone to form flower buds and bloom.
  • This practice helps to form a dense, slightly shorter, more compact plant with multiple buds that bloom in late summer or early fall.


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