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Landscaping with Ornamental Grasses

October 08, 20234 min read

Ornamental grasses are the latest rage in lawn design. Just as in interior design, texture has become an important part of the look of a well-designed yard, and ornamental grasses provide unique textures to any landscape. There is a great diversity of ornamental grasses, from short edgy varieties to outstanding tall grasses that make a definite statement. They also come in different colors.

According to Better Homes and Gardens, “Most of them are very drought- and heat tolerant, keeping their good looks no matter the weather. Plus, they aren't often bothered by pests and diseases, and deer tend to leave them alone.”

These plants have the luxury of being somewhere between flowers and shrubs. Some will arrive in spring virtually intact after a Minnesota winter, but most can simply need to be cut back to the ground in the spring and they look good as new in about a month.

Many Uses for Ornamental Grasses

There are many uses for ornamental grass and their easy care is making them more and more popular in gardens.

Tall grasses in a large grouping can act as a screen, somewhat like bamboo. Silver Feather Grass and several varieties of Switch Grass grow up to six feet tall and produce nice results for this purpose.

Dramatic effect.
Because of their unique textures, colors, and multiple sizes, ornamental grasses can be mixed with flowers and other plantings to bring drama to any yard, or even in containers. Flame Grass turns a violent orange in the fall and Boulder Blue Fescue grows in grey blue clumps. These grasses look great mixed with herbs, such as lavender, and wildflowers like black-eyes Susan. And they really show off in the fall as they turn to harvest colors.

Breaking up Hardscapes.
Soft and flexible, ornamental grasses act as a foil to hard surfaces like patios or cement planter boxes. They look equally good with modern tile patterns or rustic railroad ties.

Much like throw pillows or repeated décor themes, using the same grasses throughout your garden brings a sense of unity and flow.

Edging a garden.
Those looking for a different way to edge their garden can use clumping ornamental grasses. Just remember that when using them as edging, plant them a little closer together and in a row.

Attract Birds.
Birds love ornamental grasses, they use the tufts and blades to make their nests. Some species will make their nest between tall, tight tuffs.

Use Grasses Hardy in Minnesota

Just like any other plant, grasses need to be chosen that are hardy in this region: Those that will live through the cold winters and the muggy summers. According to Gertens online, here are ten ornamental grasses that grow well in the state and are popular with gardeners and landscapers.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Purpurescens’ (Flame Grass): Growing up to five feet tall by four feet wide, it clumps and is great used as a screen.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silberfeder’ (Silver Feather Grass): Growing as much as eight feet tall and wide, this has a showy silver plume. Another grass used to create a screen.

Calamagrostis acutifolia ‘Karl Foerster’ (Feather Reed Grass): Tolerating moisture and heavy soil, this grass gets to be five feet tall and two feet wide with a wheat-like seed heads.

Molina caerulea ‘Variegata’ (Variegated Moor Grass): Having a beautiful fall yellow color, it has variegated foliage that grows about 18 inches tall.

Panicum virgatum ‘Prairie Fire’ (Switch Grass): Commonly used as an accent plant, this grass offers a lovely blue shade with greenish-blue plumes and gets five feet tall.

Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ (Switch Grass): As the seasons change, this plant turns from silvery blue to yellow. It gets about three feet tall.

Panicum virgatum ‘North Wind’ (Switch Grass): Very tough and vigorous in Minnesota weather, it has thick steel-blue foliage. It gets six feet all.

Sporobolis heterolepis ‘Prairie Drop Seed’: Getting up to three feet tall, it forms arching mounds of hair-like foliage.

Festuca glauca ‘Boulder Blue’ (Fescue): Forming stiff dense mounds of blue-green, they make great boarder plantings.

Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ (Japanese Golden Forest Grass): A shade plant, it has variegated gold and green foliage.

When to Plant Grasses

Grasses can be planted any time between May and September. They also do not need to be cut back in the fall, as they will keep their shape and color throughout the winter. Cut them back a few inches from their base in the early spring and they will regenerate.

The only problem is that it takes about three years for ornamental grasses to fully mature in height and width, but once established they need very little care. Which makes them so popular.


Be it spring or fall, Steve Schroeder Services will keep your yard and garden in tip top shape. We prune trees, trim shrubs, fertilize and mulch. Doing just what is needed to let your beautifully designed garden shine through.

If you are not familiar with Steve Schroeder Services, LLC, know that Schroeder’s mission is, “To Keep Putting Service Back into Customer Service with the Utmost Quality and Care.”

I put my heart and soul into making sure that every job is done right! Contact me at or call me at 507-398-3346 to book an appointment. I look forward to doing business with you soon!

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Steve Schroeder

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PO Box 8072

Rochester, Minnesota 55903


Phone: (507) 398-3346

Mon - Fri: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Saturday: 10:30 am - 3:30 pm

Sunday: By Appointment Only

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