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Ornamental Grasses and Grass-Like Plants for Oklahoma

The term ornamental grass is used to include not only true grasses (Poaceae) but close relatives such as sedges (Cyperaceae), rushes (Juncaceae), hardy bamboos (particularly the genus Phyllostachys) and others. This fact sheet presents ornamental grasses and grass-like plants adapted to Oklahoma. Listings are for USDA hardiness zones 6-8. Some popular tender grasses, grown as annuals, also are listed.

  • Grasses are adaptable and can grow in poorer soils better than many other garden plants.
  • Grasses require little effort to maintain once established.
  • Grasses come in many heights, colors, textures and have varying water requirements.
  • Grass seed heads and foliage add fall and winter interest.
  • Dried grasses have many decorative uses indoors and out.
  • Grasses can be used as groundcovers, specimen plants, for erosion control and as vertical design elements.
Figure 1. Ornamental grasses grown in a landscape bed at the Botanic Garden at OSU.
A variety of ornamental grasses growing in a garden.

 

Ornamental grasses and grass-like plants can add a great deal of value to the landscape. Many are easy to grow and have very few pest problems. They have unique form and texture compared to many other landscape plants and provide year-round interest. In addition to the form, texture and colors that many species offer, they also provide movement as they sway back and forth in the gentlest of breezes.

 

Our Oklahoma native species are considered essential members of the short and tall grass prairies and the crosstimber areas that make up much of Oklahoma. Native species therefore work well in wildflower and prairie gardens and some woodland settings. Native species attract wildlife to the garden. Birds use leaf blades for nesting and seed of some grass species provide food. 

 

Oklahoma’s unique climate and ecoregions provide many opportunities and choices when it comes to grasses and their grass-like relatives. When selecting ornamental grasses consider their function in the landscape. Depending on the species they may be used for an accent, erosion control, as a groundcover, to attract wildlife, as a screen and even as lawn substitutes. Native sedges are finding increased use as lawn alternatives that need much less water, spraying, feeding and mowing. Many of our shortgrass prairie species can be used for lawns too like buffalograss and grama grasses. Many species work well in containers or as part of a container arrangement. There is a tremendous range in sizes from small, petite grasses that only grow a few inches high to large grasses that can reach up to 14 feet. Most grasses are perennial, though there are several annuals as well as tender perennials used as annuals in Oklahoma. Grasses come in a wide variety of color other than green. There are yellow or golden varieties, red to pink, blue to purple and variegated forms. Grasses that go dormant in winter turn natural colors such as brown, tan, and gray, which provide color and interest during the winter months.

 

Culture and Maintenance

Ornamental grasses can be planted just about any time of year (particularly containerized specimens); however, for establishment purposes cool-season grasses are best planted in the late summer and fall and warm-season grasses in late spring and early summer. Supplemental watering may be necessary the first season after planting.

 

Beds should be free of unwanted and aggressive weeds like bermudagrass. While there are organic methods to controlling bermudagrass among ornamental grasses, most require diligent, extensive labor. The use of herbicides is generally needed and may need several applications to get complete control. Getting control of existing weeds prior to planting is much easier than controlling them after ornamentals are planted.

 

Most grasses prefer full sun; a handful of species prefer or tolerate part sun while others need to be in semi-shady areas due the late afternoon sun and heat. Species or cultivars with red or purple foliage will have more vivid color if grown in full sun and may turn green in shade.

 

Water according to species’ needs. Some require very little water once established. Consider watering in winter during long dry periods (more than four weeks without 1 inch of precipitation); water prior to freezing temperatures.

 

Spacing of grasses is determined on the desired effect of the planting. A general rule for spacing is equal to the mature height of the plant (plants 2 feet tall are spaced 2 feet apart). If the plants are being used as specimens, they can be planted further apart. Species used for groundcovers, screens, or hedges or that spread horizontally can be spaced based on mature widths. Some plants create thick clumps of grass blades coming from the base of the plant and will often stay in that one place but gradually increase in diameter. Other grasses, however, spread through rhizomes and/or stolons, spreading horizontally more quickly.

 

Grasses are easily propagated through division (digging the plant and cutting it into smaller sections, each with stem and roots). Hybrids or named cultivars can only be propagated by division as they will not come true from seed. Some cultivars produce sterile seed and must also be propagated by division. Seed propagation is often used with native grasses for prairie restoration or for planting large areas. Note that patented selections are illegal to propagate without a licensing and/or royalty agreement.

 

Division may be needed if the plant has poor vigor and/or is declining, or if more plants are needed. Most grasses benefit from spring division. Large mature grasses may need division when the center of the plant is dead, this is particularly common on clump forming grasses. Digging and cutting large specimens usually require considerable manual labor. When appropriate, mechanical equipment such as a backhoe and a saws-all will save a lot of time and effort. Ornamental grasses are very tough and can handle a lot of abuse during the division process. However, it is important when physically cutting a plant apart to ensure each new division has some roots and crown of the original plant. Depending on the size of the plant and the desired size of the divisions, the original can often be divided into halves or quarters. 

 

Most ornamental grasses need to be cut back each year. The best time to cut them back is late winter or early spring just before new growth begins. If not cut back, the plant may look unattractive with dead material among the new leaves. Manually cutting grasses back can be done easily with a pair of hedge sheers for small areas (electric hedge trimmers make the job even easier). Many species have serrated leaf margins, so gloves may be necessary to protect your hands. If permitted, large areas may be burned. This may require permits and should be done under close supervision. While cutting grasses back can make a lot of garden debris to remove from the landscape, the material can also be utilized in the landscape or vegetable garden, as straw mulch, in paths, or simply add it to the compost pile.

 

Soil

Most ornamental grasses will grow in a wide range of soils with a pH range of 5.0 to 8.0. Well-established grasses rarely need fertilization or irrigation except in extreme cases such as drought or very sandy soils. Overfertilization of grasses, especially with fertilizers high in nitrogen, and overwatering, can lead to weak stems resulting in lodging (grasses flopping over). Native grasses prefer unamended soils; rich soils tend to make plants weak and flop over.

 

Pests

Ornamental grasses have few pest problems. Weeds are generally the biggest problem and are controlled through hand weeding or spot treatments of a contact herbicide for persistent weeds. Care should be taken when applying herbicides to avoid damaging the ornamental grasses as well as other desirable plants in the area. Be sure to choose a product that is listed to control the types of weeds you are dealing with and in the site that they are growing.

 

Grasses and Grass-like plants for Different Landscape Needs

Grasses and grass-like plants recommended in the next sections are merely examples of what grows well in Oklahoma. Lists provided are not comprehensive but are to assist the homeowner in working with their local horticulturists and professionals. Some plants mentioned may not be suited for all landscape situations but are intended to fill specific needs in the landscape. Sometimes a compromise in plant selection may be necessary for the specific purpose to be realized. 

 

Plants for Water Gardens, Rain Gardens, Standing Water, and Bogs

Acorus spp., sweet flag

Carex spp., sedge

Chasmanthium latifolium, northern sea oats

Elymus hystrix, eastern bottlebrush

Juncus effusus, common rush

Leymus arenarius, blue lymegrass

Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’, red flame miscanthus

Miscanthus sacchariflorus, silver banner grass

Panicum virgatum, switch grass

Phalaris arundinacea, reed canary grass

Spartina pectinata, cordgrass

Spartina pectinata ‘Aureomarginata’, variegated cordgrass

 

Figure 2.1 and 2.2 Golden Variegated Sweet Flag, Acorus gramineus 'Ogon'.
Two grassy bushes growing near water.A close-up of a grassy-like bush growing near water.

 

Figure 3. Big Twister Rush, Juncus effusus ‘Big Twister’. 
Curly green grasses growing out of a black pot.

 

Plants for Shady Locations

Acorus gramineus, Japanese or grassy-leaved sweet flag

Andropogon gerardii, big bluestem

Andropogon glomeratus, bushy bluestem

Andropogon ternarius, split beard bluestem

Calamagrostis arundinacea var. brachytricha, fall-blooming reed grass

Carex spp., most sedges

Chasmanthium latifolium, northern sea oats

Cyperus spp., papyrus or paper plant

Elymus hystrix, eastern bottlebrush

Equisetum hyemale, scouringrush or horsetailrush

Erianthus contortus, bent awn plume grass

Festuca glauca, blue fescue (light shade)

Hakonechloa macra cultivars, 

Imperata brevifolia, satintail

Juncus spp., rushes

Luzula spp., woodrush

Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea ‘Variegata’, variegated moor grass

Panicum virgatum, switch grass

Pennisetum spp., fountain grass (light shade)

Phalaris arundinacea ‘Picta’, ribbon grass

Phalaris arundinacea var. luteo-picta, yellow ribbon grass

Phalaris arundinacea ‘Feesey’s Form’, Feesey’s ribbon grass

Setaria palmifolia, palm grass

Spartina pectinata ‘Aureomarginata’, golden-edged prairie 

cord grass

Spodiopogon sibiricus, frost grass

Stenotaphrum secundatum ‘Variegatum’, Variegated St. Augustinegrass (light shade)

Sisyrinchium angustifolium, narrow-leaf blue-eyed-grass

Tripsacum dactyloides, eastern gamagrass

Zoysia spp., zoysiagrass (light shade)

 

Figure 4.1 and 4.2. Northern Sea Oats, Chasmanthium latifolium (left). Variegated Japanese Forest grass, Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ (right).
A close-up of green grasses with multiple small leaves coming off the sides of each blade.A large green grassy bush growing in a mulched flowerbed.

 

Plants for Dry Shade

Carex leavenworthii, leavenworth's sedge

Carex pensylvanica, Pennsylvania sedge

Erianthus contortus, bent-awn plumegrass

Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’, Elijah Blue fescue (light shade)

Festuca spp., fescue, (light shade)

Helictotrichon sempervirens, blue oat grass (light shade)

Liriope spp., lilyturf

Ophiopogon spp., mondograss

Panicum virgatum, switch grass

Pennisetum spp., fountain grass (light shade

Phalaris arundinacea, ‘Picta’, ribbon grass

Phalaris arundinacea var. luteo-picta, yellow ribbon grass

Phalaris arundinacea ‘Feesey’s Form’, Feesey’s ribbon grass

Phormium tenax, New Zealand flax

Tridens flavus, purpletop

 

Figure 5.1, 5.2 and 5.3. Elijah Blue Blue Fescue, Festuca ovina ‘Elijah Blue’ (top). Dwarf Mondograss, Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Nana’ (middle). Monkeygrass, Liriope species (bottom).
Multiple green grassy bushes growing in a mulched flowerbed.
A close-up of a green grassy bush with wide blades.
A close-up of green grassy bush with purple flowers on the ends.

 

Plants for Containers

Acorus calamus ‘Variegatus’, variegated sweet flag

Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’, golden variegated sweet flag

Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Overdam’, Overdam feather reed grass

Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Avalanche’, Avalanche feather reed grass

Carex spp. and cultivars, sedges

Chasmanthium latifolium, northern sea oats

Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’, Elijah Blue fescue

Hakonechloa spp. and cultivars, Japanese forest grass

Helictotrichon sempervirens, blue oat grass

Imperata ‘Red Baron’, bloodgrass

Melinus nerviglumis ‘Pink Crystals’, ruby grass

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegata’, variegated miscanthus

Miscanthus sinensis var. condensatus ‘Caberet’, Caberet miscanthus

Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Little Bunny’, dwarf fountain grass

Pennisetum glaucum ‘Purple Majesty’, Purple Majesty millet

Pennisteum setaceum, crimson fountain grass 

Pennisteum setaceum ‘Rubrum’, purple fountain grass

 

Figure 6. Pink Crystals Ruby grass, Melinus nerviglumus ‘Pink Crystals’.
A green grassy bush with red flowers sticking out of the ends.

 

Plants for Screens

Screens over 5' tall:

Andropogon gerardii, big bluestem

Cortaderia selloana, pampas grass (not as cold hardy in northern OK)

Miscanthus spp. and cultivars, maidenhair grass

Panicum virgatum cultivars, switch grass

Sorghastrum nutans ‘Sioux Blue’, Indian grass

See-through screens:

Molinia caerulea ssp. arundinacea ‘Skyracer’, purple moore grass

Molinia caerulea ssp. arundinacea ‘Transparent’, purple moore grass

Molinia caerulea ssp. arundinacea ‘Windspiel’, purple moore grass

Screens 4-5’ tall:

Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, feather reed grass

Mischanthus sinensis ‘Graziella’, maidenhair grass

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Klein Fontane’, maidenhair grass

Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’, switch grass

Spodiopogon sibiricus, silver spikegrass

 

Figure 7.1 and 7.2. Blue Bayou Pampas Grass, Cortaderia selloana ‘Blue Bayou’ (left). Switchgrass, Panicum virgatum (right).
A large green grassy bush with fluffy brown ends sticking out of the top.A large green grassy bush with light brown blades extending throughout.

 

Plants for Erosion Control

Andropogon ternarius, split beard bluestem

Carex flacca, blue sedge

Eragrostis trichodes, sand lovegrass

Leymus arenarius, blue lymegrass

Liriope spp., lilyturf

Miscanthus sacchariflorus, silver banner grass

Molinia caerulea, purple moor grass

Phalaris arundinacea, ribbon grass

Sorghastrum nutans, Indian grass

Spartina pectinata, cordgrass

 

Figure 8.1 and 8.2. Blue Dune lyme grass, Leymus arenarius ‘Blue Dune’.
A green grassy bushes growing in a mulched flowerbed.Dark green grassy bushes growing in a flowerbed with brown blades also extending throughout the bushes.

 

Plants that Self-seed

Andropogon spp., bluestem

Bouteloua hirsuta, hairy grama grass

Carex spp. (some), sedges

Chasmanthium latifolium, northern sea oats

Eragrostis spectabilis, purple lovegrass

Eragrostis trichodes, sand lovegrass

Festuca spp., blue fescue

Elymus hystrix, eastern bottlebrush

Melinis nerviglumis, ruby grass (annual)

Miscanthus sinensis cultivars, maiden grass: two or more cultivars can cross-pollinate and set seed

Molinia caerulea ssp. arundinacea, tall purple moorgrass

Nasella tenuissima, Mexican feather grass

Panicum virgatum, switchgrass

Pennisetum alopecuroides, fountain grass

Elymus canadensis, Canada wildrye

Schizachyrium scoparium, little bluestem

Sorghastrum nutans, Indian grass

Sporobolus heterolepis, prairie drop seed

Tripsacum dactyloides, eastern gamagrass

 

Figure 9.1 and 9.2. Mexican Feather grass, Nassella tennuissima.
A close-up of a large, tall, very grassy and green bush.A large, tall, very grassy and green bush growing in a mulched flowerbed.

 

Plants for Hot and Dry Locations

Andropogon gerardii, big bluestem

Bouteloua curtipendula, side oats grama

Bouteloua gracilis, blue grama

Carex, sedges (certain spp.)

Elymus hystrix, bottlebrush grass

Eragrostis spp., lovegrass

Festuca glauca, blue fescue, most cultivars

Helictotrichon sempervirens, blue oat grass

Helictotrichon sempervirens ‘Saphiresprudel’, Saphiresprudel oat grass

Hordeum jubatum, foxtail barley, squirrel-tail grass

Imperata ‘Red Baron’, bloodgrass

Leymus arenarius, blue lyme grass

Melinis nerviglumis, ruby grass (annual)

Muhlenbergia capillaris ’Lenca’, Regal MistTM, pink muhly

Nassella tenuissima, Mexican feathergrass

Panicum virgatum, switch grass

Pennisetum orientale, oriental fountain grass (annual)

Pennisteum setaceum, fountain grass (annual)

Pennisetum villosum, feathertop (annual)

Phalaris arundinacea ‘Picta’, ribbon grass, reed canary grass

Tridens flavus, purpletop

 

Figure 10.1 and 10.2. Hameln Dwarf Fountain Grass, Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ (left). Prairie dropseed, Sporobolus heterolepis (right).
A tall green grassy bush with little fluffly light brown ends extending throughout.Small green grassy bushes growing in clumps around a mulched flowerbed with a statue in the middle.

 

Plants for Prairie Restoration

Andropogon gerardii*, big bluestem; moderately to wet soils

Bouteloua curtipendula, side oats grama; dry to moderately moist soils

Bouteloua gracilis, blue grama; dry soil

Buchloe dactyloides, buffalograss; dry soil

Elymus canadensis, Canada wildrye; moderately moist soil

Koeleria macrantha, june grass; dry to moderately moist soils

Panicum virgatum*, switchgrass; wet to moderately moist soils

Schizachyrium scoparium*, little bluestem; dry to moderately moist soils

Sorghastrum nutans*, Indian grass; moderately moist soil

Spartina pectinata, cord grass; wet to moderately moist soils

Sporobolus heterolepis, prairie dropseed; dry soil

Tripsacum dactyloides, eastern gamagrass

*Dominant in the Tall Grass Prairie

 

Figure 11.1 and 11.2. Blue grama grass, Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’ (left). Buffalograss, Buchloe dactyloides (right)
A grassy green bush with brown ends growing in a mulched flowerbed.A large grassy green bush with brown ends growing in a mulched flowerbed.

 

Figure 12.1 and 12.2. Little bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium.
A tall red grassy bush, growing along a sidewalk.Three tall grassy green bushes growing in a row in a mulched flowerbed.

 

Alternative Plants for Lawn Grasses in Sunny Locations

Bouteloua curtipendula, side oats grama; 1-2'

Bouteloua gracilis, blue grama; 12-18"

Buchloe dactyloides, buffalograss; 6-12"

Carex pensylvanica, sun sedge; 12-18"

Carex flacca, blue sedge; 6-18"

Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’, blue fescue; 6-12"

Koeleria macrantha, June grass; 12"

Sporobolus heterolepis, prairie dropseed; 2-3' 

 

Figure 13. Buffalograss, Buchloe dactyloides.
A backyard surrounded with mulched flowerbeds, grassy green bushes, and a small shed in the back.

 

Alternative Plants for Lawn Grasses in Shady Locations

Carex spp., most sedges; 6"–2'

Hakonechloa macra, hakone grass; 6-18"

Hakonechloa macra ‘Albo-Striata’, striped hakone grass; 6-12"

Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, golden hakone grass; 6-12"

 

Figure 14. Ice Ballet variegated Japanese sedge, Carex morrowii ‘Ice Ballet’.
A close-up of a green grassy spread that has a yellow stripe down the middle of each blade.

 

Plants with Fall Color* and Winter Interest

Andropogon gerardii, big bluestem ‘Blackhawks’- deep purple in fall, ‘Red October’ – deep red in fall

Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, feather reed grass - tan foliage, upright form

Calamagrostis brachytricha, fall blooming reed grass - pink- green fall flowers, tan foliage

Chasmanthium latifolium, northern sea oats - yellow fall color, brown seedheads last all winter

Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’, Elijah Blue fescue - almost evergreen

Helictotrichon sempervirens, blue oat grass - almost evergreen

Miscanthus x ‘Giganteus’, giant miscanthus - tan foliage, winter sound and movement

Miscanthus sinensis, most cultivars - yellow or orange fall color, showy flowers in fall and all winter, usually upright in 

winter; ‘Autumn Light’, ‘Gracillimus’, and ‘Morning Light’ are the stiffest cultivars

Miscanthus sacchariflorus, silver banner grass - good orange fall color, showy white flowers fall apart in December

Molinia caerulea ssp. arundinacea, ‘Skyracer’, and ‘Windspiel’, tall purple moorgrass - all tall cultivars are similar in fall: yellow stems and foliage, usually become prostrate with snow

Panicum virgatum, switchgrass - tan foliage, upright form in winter

Schizachyrium scoparium, little bluestem - orange fall and winter color, silvery fall flowers

Sorghastrum nutans, Indian grass - yellow and orange fall color, upright attractive flowers in winter

Spartina pectinata, cordgrass - yellow fall color

Spartina pectinata ‘Aureomarginata’, variegated cordgrass - yellow fall color

Spodiopogon sibiricus, silver spike grass - orange, red and bronze fall color; prostrate in winter

Sporobolus heterolepis, prairie dropseed - orange fall color

*Fall color can wane in winter months. See tables for additional cultivar listings.

 

Figure 15.1, 15.2, 15.3 and 15.4. Pink Muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris (first). Winter Interest - Bushy Bluestem, Andropogon glomeratus (second). Little bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium (third). Ornamental grass garden in winter (fourth).
A tall grassy bush with fluffy purple ends.A thick red grassy bush growing along a sidewalk.A close-up of a smaller red grassy bush growing in a mulched flowerbed.A tall brown grassy bush with light brown fluffy ends, growing in a mulched flowerbed.

 

 

Table 1. Perennial Grasses:

Scientific name Common name Height Light Foliage Flower Comments

Andropogon gerardii 

big bluestem*

4-6' Sun Gray-blue-green Purplish-red Reddish bronze winter color. Larval host for butterflies. Tolerates all soils; prefers dry, infertile soil. Cultivars – ‘Blackhawks’, ‘Dancing Wind’, ‘Red October’, Windwalker®.

Andropogon glomeratus

bushy bluestem*

1-2' Sun to light shade Green White Fluffy plumes. Flower spikes turn warm orange and leaves purplish in fall. Cottony plumes are quite attractive especially when backlit by sun. Grows best near water, along streams, and in bogs. Can reseed readily and be invasive under ideal conditions.

Andropogon ternarius

split beard bluestem*

1-1.5' Sun to light shade Green to green with purplish tint Silvery to creamy Fluffy, cottony plumes. Flower spikes reach 4-5’ tall. Good erosion control and slope plant in poor or sandy soils. Grows best in well-drained soil. Great for fresh flower arrangements. Can reseed readily and be invasive in moist climates, not invasive in dry western climates.

Arundo donax  

giant reed grass

14' Sun Gray-green White Moist, well-drained soil. Nuisance to invasive under some conditions. ‘Variegata’- Variegated giant reed grass has creamy stripes in leaves.

Bouteloua curtipendula

side oats grama*

18-24" Sun Gray-green Purplish-tan Slender, oat-like flowers point to one side. Fall foliage and flowers turn rich shades of orange and bronze. Any soil, drought tolerant. Food for wildlife.

Bouteloua dactyloides

buffalograss*

4-6" Sun Gray-green Not showy Prefers slightly clayey soil. Drought tolerant. Can be used as turfgrass. Cultivars: ‘Bowie’, ‘Cody’, ‘Sundancer’, ‘609’, ‘Prairie’, ‘Prestige’, ‘Legacy’.

Bouteloua gracilis

blue grama*

8-30" Sun Blue-green White, blonde “Eyelash” seed heads. Sand or clay soil. Accent, filler, lawns, massing. Great for western Oklahoma. Cultivars - ‘Blonde Ambition’ and ‘Hachita’.

Bouteloua hirsuta 

hairy grama grass*

8-12" Sun Green White Small native with eyelash-like blooms in summer. Drought tolerant. Will reseed and naturalize. Deer resistant.

Calamagrostis x acutiflora 

feather reed grass

1.5-4' Sun to light shade Green Pink to beige Good for vertical accent. Erect, slender, wiry stems; purplish plumes to 5’ high. Tolerates variety of soils. Cultivars - ‘Avalanche’, ‘Eldorado’, ‘Karl Foerster’, ‘Overdam’.

Calamagrostis arundinacea 

foxtail grass, fall blooming reed grass, Korean feather reed grass

3-4' Sun to light shade Green Pink tinged then light tan Pinkish plumes. Foliage yellowish beige in fall. Grows in average to wet soils, even heavy clay. Does not like to dry out. 

Table 1. Perennial Grasses:

(Continued)

Scientific name Common name Height Light Foliage Flower Comments

Chasmanthium latifolium * 

Northern sea oats, inland sea oats, Indian wood oats, river oats

2-3' Part sun to shade

Green; green/

cream

Green-pink then golden Seed heads look like fish on a string. Tolerates moist to wet soil. Self-seeding in moist soil. Cultivars – ‘Little Tickler’ and ‘River Mist’.

Cortaderia selloana

pampas grass

8-12’ Sun  Green  White, pink Hardy and evergreen in southern borders of Oklahoma. Plumes appear in summer. ‘Pumila’ is a dwarf form (3-5’) and hardier than species; plumes are sterile. Can be aggressive in southern Oklahoma.

Elymus canadensis

Canada wildrye*

2-4' Sun or part shade Green Green Cool-season, short-lived grass. A good bunchgrass for partly shady prairie plantings. Displays heavy, whiskery, nodding seed heads in early fall. Prefers a moist soil. Can take half a day of shade. The awns (seed husks) of this species are barbed and pose a serious threat of injury to pets. Self-seeds.

Elymus hystrix

bottlebrush grass*

1-3’ Sun, part shade Green Green Bottlebrush-like seed heads. Adaptable to a wide range of conditions including clay, sand and rich garden soils. Will grow where many other grasses will not including dry shade. 

Eragrostis elliottii 

Elliott’s lovegrass*

2-3’ Sun Blue-green White to tan Grows in sandy, low-nutrient soils; drought tolerant once established. Good for rain gardens. Cultivars: ‘Wind Dancer’. Note: non-native weeping lovegrass (E. curvula) is considered invasive and should be avoided.

Eragrostis spectabilis

purple lovegrass*

1-2’ Sun Green Purple Soft reddish-purple flowers in a loose, open inflorescence form airy cloud. Any soil but prefers dry sandy or gravelly soil. Self-seeds, best in masses or naturalized settings. Good in masses or meadow-type plantings. Note: non-native weeping lovegrass (E. curvula) is considered invasive and should be avoided.

Eragrostis trichodes

sand lovegrass*

2-4’ Sun Green  Purple tinted Grows in average, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil. Very drought tolerant. Will self-seed in optimum conditions. Plants turn bronze in fall. Good for naturalizing and erosion control. Note: non-native weeping lovegrass (E. curvula) is considered invasive and should be avoided.

Erianthus contortus

bent-awn plumegrass

1.5-2’ Sun to light shade Blueish green Purple  Southeastern native with bluish green foliage. In fall foliage turns stunning shades of red and purple. Striking foliage and flowering accent. Plumes emerge silky purple and become fluffy and cottony with age. Narrow, upright habit. Grows best in well-drained soil in full sun, though it tolerates dry soil and light shade.

Erianthus ravennae

ravenna grass, hardy pampas grass

4-5’ Sun Gray-green Silvery with purple

Foliage turns shades of orange, beige, tan, brown and purple often with multiple colors blended. Plumes mature to fluffy, cream-colored panicles that persist into winter.

 

Great accent plant or screen. Plumes are used in cut/dried flower arrangements. Prefers moist, well-drained soil, but considerably drought tolerant. 

Festuca glauca

blue fescue

0.5-1’ Sun to part shade Blue-gray Not showy Cool-season, bunch grass. Needs well-drained soil. Cultivars – ‘Beyond Blue’, ‘Blue Whiskers’, ‘Boulder Blue’, ‘Elijah Blue’, ‘Golden Toupee’, ‘Sea Urchin

Table 1. Perennial Grasses:

(Continued)

Scientific name Common name Height Light Foliage Flower Comments

Hakonechloa macra

Japanese forest grass

1-1.5' Part shade Green to gold to variegated; copper-orange shades in fall Not showy  Clump forming plant with arching stems. Prefers moist, well-drained soil. Protect from late afternoon sun and winds. Cultivars - ‘Albostriata’, ‘Aureola’, ‘All Gold’, ‘Beni-kaze’, Sunflare™.

Helictotrichon sempervirens

blue oat grass

2-3’ Sun Blue Bluish-brown Graceful nodding flowers on arching stems. Grows in average, dry to medium, well-drained soil. Crown rot may occur in moist, poorly drained soil. Best blue color occurs in dryish soils. Remove withered leaves as they appear. Cool-season grass, evergreen.

Hordeum jubatum

foxtail barley, squirrel-tail grass

1-2' Sun

Green to

blue-green

Pale green to purplish Short-lived perennial. Nodding clusters of purple to pale green flowers with many long, straight bristles. Wet to dry conditions.

Imperata brevifolia

satintail* 

1-1.5’ Sun or shade Green Satiny white Creeping, warm-season grass that has attractive red fall color and cottony white plumes. Foliage a translucent bright green that becomes red as the season progresses. Good for naturalizing along streams or ponds. Best planted in masses. Good for pots or other containers. Prefers moist, well-drained soil in full sun or part shade. It flowers less and does not develop good fall color in considerable shade. Tolerates heat if moisture is present.

Imperata cylindrica

‘Red Baron’ 

Japanese blood grass

1.5' Sun

Red/

green

Rarely flowers Leaves green at base, with red tips. Slowly forms a clump. Prefer moist, but well-drained soil. Weedy if not monitored. Remove all green shoots that appear. ‘Red Baron’/‘Rubra’ is a shorter, less invasive horticultural selection that reportedly rarely flowers, does not set seed and lacks the invasive spreading tendencies attributed to the species.

Koeleria macrantha (K. pyramidata)

prairie junegrass, hairgrass 

1.5-2’ Sun Green Amber Cool-season, clump forming. Thrives in rocky or gritty soils. Needs superior drainage. Tolerates drought. Avoid wet and/or heavy soils or shade.

Leymus arenarius 

blue lyme grass

3' Sun to light shade Blue Beige  Cool-season grass tolerant of hot weather. Prefers dry, sunny locations; very salt tolerant. ‘Blue Dune’ is a bright blue form. Spreads by rhizomes, use as a ground cover and erosion control.

Miscanthus

silver grass, maiden grass, eulalia grass

3-10’ Sun to light shade

Green/

White

White, pink, red Popular grass with graceful, vase-shape, and soft, airy texture. Easy to grow. Great year-round interest. Genus consists of many species and cultivars. See Table 4 for various species and cultivars.

Molinia caerulea

purple moor grass

1.5-3’ Sun to light shade Green Yellow Dense, upright growth. Grows best in average to moist soils and make a great rain garden grass. Attract birds, good for erosion control. Deer resistant. Cultivars – ‘Bergfreund’, ‘Heidebraut’, ‘Moorflamme’, ‘Moorhexe’, ‘Skyracer’, ‘Transparent’, ‘Variegata’, ‘Windspiel’.

Table 1. Perennial Grasses:

(Continued)

Scientific name Common name Height Light Foliage Flower Comments

Muhlenbergia capillaris *

pink muhly grass

2-4' Sun Gray-green to blue-green Pink Plumes pinkish panicles and cloud-like. Best in sandy, rocky, well-drained soil. Cultivars: ‘Fast Forward’, ‘Lena’ (Regal Mist®), ‘Pink Cloud’, ‘Pink Flamingo’, ‘White Cloud’ (white flowers).

Nasella tenuissima *

Mexican feather grass

1-3' Sun Green Silky, golden Very fine texture. Drought tolerant. Readily self-seeds; can be aggressive. 

Panicum virgatum *

switch grass

4-6’ Sun to part shade Green White, pinkish Graceful, arching foliage; usually blue-green in summer turning yellow-orange in fall. Dry to wet soil, prefers moist sandy, clay. Great for accent, screens, borders, massing. Cultivars – ‘Cheyenne Sky’, ‘Cloud Nine’, ‘Dallas Blues’, ‘Haense Herms’, ‘Heavy Metal’, ‘Northwind’, ‘Shenandoah’, ‘Totem Pole’.

Pennisetum alopecuroides

fountain grass

1-5' Sun to light shade Green Reddish cast

Showy bottle brush-like flower spikes in summer. Grows in medium to wet soils. Drought tolerant. Occasionally weedy.

 

Cultivars – ‘Cassian’, ‘Desert Plains’, ‘Foxtrot’, ‘Hameln’, ‘JS Jommenik’, ‘Little Bunny’, ‘Moudry’, ‘Red Head’.

Pennisetum orientale 

oriental fountain grass

1-3’ Sun to part shade Green or gray-green Pinkish Best in moist, well-drained soil; drought tolerant. Seldom self-sows. Specimen or mass plantings, great for edgings. Cultivars – ‘Karley Rose’ and ‘Tall Tails’ (5’ high)

Phalaris arundinacea

‘Picta’ 

ribbon grass, reed canary grass 

2-4’ Sun

White/

green

Greenish-white to pale pink Best color contrast between cream and dark green stripes. Wet or dry soils. Aggressive spreader by rhizomes, less aggressive in drier areas. Cultivars - ‘Strawberries n Cream’ (‘Feesey’) is blushed with pink.

Schizachyrium scoparium *

little bluestem

2-4’ Sun to part sun Bluish Green  Strict, upright habit. Salmon/copper fall color. Any soil, except wet or boggy; drought tolerant, thrives on neglect. ‘Blaze’, Blue Heaven®, ‘Carousel’, ‘Jazz’, ‘Prairie Blues’, ‘Smoke Signal’, ‘Standing Ovation’, ‘The Blues’, ‘Twilight Zone’.

Sorghastrum nutans 

Indian grass

3-6’ Sun to part sun Blue-green Golden Official state grass. Upright with stiff, vertical flowering stems. Foliage turns yellow, then orange in fall. Accent or massing, erosion control, wildlife habitat. Any soil.

Spartina pectinata

‘Aureomarginata’ 

golden-edged prairie cord grass*

3-6’ Sun to light shade

Green/

yellow

Straw colored Yellow-edged, green leaves; fall color clear yellow. Best in moist, fertile soil in full sun to partial shade. It is an aggressive grass, spreading by rhizome and by seed, not suited to small gardens. It will tolerate less fertile, rocky, dry soils where it will be less aggressive. Tolerates wet soils. 

Spodiopogon sibiricus 

frost grass

3-5’ Sun to part shade Green  Purple to tan Bamboo-like quality. Leaves display purplish to wine tints in fall. Medium to wet soils; does poorly in hot dry sites. 

Table 1. Perennial Grasses:

(Continued)

Scientific name Common name Height Light Foliage Flower Comments

Sporobolus heterolepis 

prairie dropseed*

2-3’ Sun Green

Green/

pink/

copper

Fine texture with arching form. Golden with orange hues in fall. Airy flower and seed heads. Slow growing. Average to well-drained soil, tolerates clay. Ground cover, meadows, rain garden. Cultivar – ‘Tara’.

Sporobolus wrightii,

giant sacaton

3-6’ Sun Green Yellow Narrow, arching foliage with showy plumes. Drought, salt, and alkaline tolerant Southwest native. ‘Windbreaker’ gets 8-10’ high.

Tridens flavus

purpletop

3-6’ Sun to part shade Green  Purple  Drooping branches bearing widely spaced reddish-purple spikelets. Prefers dry soils. Drought and salt tolerant. larval host to skippers. Especially impactful when planted en masse. 

Tripsacum dactyloides

Eastern gamagrass

4-8’ Sun to part shade Green Purple (female) and Orange (male) Robust, clump-forming, native grass. Leaves coarse, arching. Monoecious. Easily grown in average to medium, well-drained soil. Naturalizes by thin, creeping rhizomes and self-seeding.

Uniola paniculata

seaoats

4-6’ Sun Green White Panicles have attractive drooping seed heads that can be used in dried arrangements. Grows in sandy soils and tolerant of drought, salt, and brief flooding.

Zoysia spp.

zosyiagrass

6-12” Sun to light shade Green Not showy Zosyiagrass is a cold hardy, warm-season turfgrass with medium to fine texture. Left unmowed, it makes a soft green, wispy groundcover. 

Table 2. Annual or Tender Perennial Grasses:

Scientific name Common name Height Light Foliage Flower Comments

Agrostis nebulosa

cloud grass

1.5' Sun Green White The airy seed-heads resemble clouds or sea foam. Great for flower arrangements. Suitable for meadow setting. Average to good soil. 

Briza minor

little quaking grass

1' Sun Green Light green to reddish brown. Dangling spikelets that tremble and dance in the wind.

Briza maxima

large quaking grass

1.5’ Sun Green Light green to reddish brown Oat-like, light green spikelets in late spring and summer. Spikelets tremble and dance in the wind. Well-drained soil, but tolerant of poor soils. Good for dried arrangements.

Cymbopogon citratus

lemon grass

2-4’ Sun 

Light

green

Not showy Attractive, dense rounded clump with gracefully arching leaves. Leaves emit a lemony fragrance when bruised. Extracted plant oils have been used for many years in herbal medicines and perfumes. Grows easily in average to medium, well-drained soil. 

Lagurus ovatus

hare’s-tail grass or

bunny tail grass

1-2’ Sun Green White Soft, narrow leaves form clumps. Whitish spike-like oval flower clusters are soft with hairy awns (bristles) that appear furry. Good cut flower. Grow in a container, border or in mass plantings. Average to light soil. Drought tolerant. 

Melinus nerviglumis

ruby grass

1.5-2’  Sun to part shade Blue-green Pink  Blue green foliage and ruby-pink blooms with glistening silky hairs in late spring. Flowers retain their color even when dried and may be used for cut-flower arrangements. Excellent in beds, borders and is spectacular in a container planting. Well-drained soil. Cultivars: ‘Pink Champagne’, Pink Crystals™, ‘Savannah’.

Table 2. Annual or Tender Perennial Grasses:

(Continued)

Scientific name Common name Height Light Foliage Flower Comments

Pennisetum purpureum

hybrids & cultivars napier or elephant grass (fountain grass)

4-6’ Sun  Purple  Yellow-brown Rapid-growing, clump-forming grass with upright arching, narrow, linear, leaves. Medium moisture, well-drained soils. Can be overwintered in greenhouse or indoors. Cultivars: ‘First Knight’, ‘Prince’, ‘Princess Caroline’, Vertigo®.

Pennisetum setaceum

fountain grass

3’ Sun Green Purple Blooms all summer until frost; provides dramatic accent in sunny beds and borders, with purple leaves and bristled flower spikes providing color and texture throughout the season. Moist, well-drained soil. Heat and drought tolerant plant. Cultivars: ‘Cherry Sparkler’, ‘Fireworks’, ‘Rubrum’.

Pennisetum glaucum

ornamental millet

2-5’ Sun Green to maroon to deep purple Red-purple Upright bunch habit. Selected for their attractive foliage and inflorescences. Inflorescences are foot-long bottle brush-like on the ends of the stems. The “fruits” that follow are cylindrical white, yellow, brown or purple. Best in light, well-drained soils, but most selections tolerate almost any type of soil. Drought tolerant. Vertical accent plant, best in clumps or masses. Cultivars: ‘Jade Princess’, ‘Purple Barron’, ‘Purple Jester’, ‘Purple Majesty’.

Pennisetum villosum

feathertop grass

2’ Sun Light green White Graceful with its large, fluffy, bright white flower plumes. Best in full sun in average, well-drained soil.

Setaria palmifolia

palm grass or highland pitpit 

6’ Sun to light shade Green    Tropical, lush plant with palm-like coarse leaves. Average water. 

Stenotaphrum secundatum

‘Variegatum’

variegated St. Augustinegrass

6-8” Sun to light shade Green and white Not showy St. Augustinegrass is a warm-season, coarse textured turfgrass for the very southern regions of Oklahoma. Variegated St. Augustine can be grown as an annual ornamental groundcover or in containers where it can spill over the edge.

Table 3. Grass-Like Species:

Scientific name Common name Height Light Foliage Flower Comments

Acorus gramineus

Japanese or grassy-leaved sweet flag 

.5-1’ Shade

Green/

golden

  Semi-evergreen groundcover. Grows well in many conditions including wet, boggy sites and prefers damp soil. This plant can handle up to 4 inches of standing water; it does not perform well in dry soils. Cultivars: ‘Ogon’ – more tolerant of sun than other Acorus, but will look better with afternoon shade, ‘Mininus Aureus’, ‘Oborozuki’, ‘Variegatus’.

Carex spp.,

sedges 

.5-3’ Sun to shade Various Various Many types; natives often found growing in wetland areas. See Table 5 for list of species and cultivars. Some are possible lawn substitutes for shady areas.

Cordyline

spp. and cultivars

cordyline or Ti plant

2-4’ Full sun to part shade Green, red, yellow, white, purple, and purplish-red White, pink, lavender Long spikey, leathery leaves in a variety of colors. Often grown as a houseplant, treated as an annual in Oklahoma. Well-drained soils. Cultivars – many.

Cyperus involucrata

umbrella plant or umbrella sedge

A leafy and grassy green bush with yellow spots throughout.

3-6' Sun to part shade Green Green turning reddish-brown Grown for its showy whorl-like cluster of 10-25 thin slightly downward-arching leaf-like bracts, which form a showy umbrella-shaped rosette. Grows in wet, boggy soils. Tender perennial (Annual). Cultivars: Baby Tut®.

Cyperus papyrus

papyrus or paper plant

5-8’ Sun to part shade Green Greenish-brown Grown for stems topped by an umbellate inflorescence of 100+ narrow arching thread-like rays. Grows in wet, boggy soils. Tender perennial (Annual). Cultivars: King Tut®, Prince Tut™.

Equisetum hyemale

scouringrush or horsetailrush*

2-4’ Sun to part shade Green   Features rough, vertically ridged, jointed-and-segmented, bamboo-like, dark green stems. Evergreen. Grow in medium to wet soils. Good plant for covering a wet low spot where nothing else will grow. Interesting plant for large patio containers. Native, but very aggressive spreader, plants should be physically contained to avoid spread.

Table 3. Grass-Like Species:

(Continued)

Scientific name Common name Height Light Foliage Flower Comments

Juncus effusus

common or soft rush*

A small grass-like bush with green spiraled blades.

2-4’ Sun or shade Blue to blue-green Yellowish-green Smooth, upright, cylindrical, unjointed, spire-like green stems, which grow in spreading basal clumps. Cut back old foliage in early spring. Easily grown in moist to wet soils. Cultivars: ‘Quartz Creek’, ‘Spiralis’ (corkscrew rush) acts as an annual in normal landscape soils.

Juncus inflexus

hard rush or blue rush

A large grassy bush with thin blades growing around a concrete bench.

1-3’  Sun Blue-green Straw to reddish-brown Upright, cylindrical, blue-green stems/leaves. Grows in consistently moist to wet soils. Thrives in neutral to alkaline soils. Good for water gardens, ponds, boggy areas. Cultivars: ‘Afro’ (Blue Medusa), ‘Blue Arrows’, ‘Blue Dart’, Blue Mohawk®. 

Libertia

species

New Zealand iris

1-3’ Sun to light shade Green, blue-green, golden, bronze, orange White Swordlike leaves provide a spiky, modern look to the garden. Produces orchid-like, 3-petalled flowers aloft stiff stems. Well-drained soils with reliable moisture. Spreads slowly from rhizomes. Treated as an annual, hardy to zone 8 or warmer.

Liriope muscari

big blue lilytur

1-1.5’ Shade or sun Dark green, variegated Lavender, purple, pink or white Evergreen mounds of grass-like foliage. Grows in clumps and is slow to spread making it good for edging. Grow in deep shade or full sun, sand, or clay. It can endure heat, drought, and salt spray, but will not take “wet feet”; it requires moist, well-drained soil. Mow off the foliage in late winter before growth starts with a lawn mower set at the highest possible cutting height. Be sure not to injure the crown of the plant. Cultivars – many.

Liriope spicata

creeping lilyturf

1-1.5’ Shade or sun Dark green, variegated Lavender, purple, pink or white Evergreen mounds of grass-like foliage. Spreads rapidly and will cover large areas making it good as an erosion control groundcover; can be aggressive. Grow in deep shade or full sun, sand or clay. It can endure heat, drought and salt spray, but will not take “wet feet”; it requires moist, well-drained soil. Mow off the foliage in late winter before growth starts with a lawnmower set at the highest possible cutting height. Be sure not to injure the crown of the plant. Cultivars – many.

Table 3. Grass-Like Species:

(Continued)

Scientific name Common name Height Light Foliage Flower Comments

Luzula

species

woodrush*

4-18” Sun to shade Green White to yellow green Leaves are edged or covered with hairs. Some species have showy flowers. Typically found in moist woodland areas though some are dry shade tolerant. Cultivars with chartreuse and variegated foliage are available.

Nolina greenei

woodland or Green’s beargrass*

30-36”  Sun  Green  White with purple midveins Native to western states and panhandle of Oklahoma. Grows in rocky locations and in grasslands or pine-oak woodlands but is adaptable to various soils. Long narrow, evergreen leaves sometimes with sharp teeth along margins. Drought resistant. Attracts butterflies.

Nolina texana

beargrass*

3' Sun to part shade Green Creamy white Long slender leaves with smooth margins and a weeping habit. Drought tolerant. Attracts butterflies.

Ophiopogon japonicus

mondograss

2-16” Part sun to full shade Dark green  White  Tufted, grass-like, evergreen clumps. Great for groundcover, as a border, or between steppingstones. Grows well in ordinary garden soil, requiring minimum attention once established. Cultivars: ‘Gyoku Ryu’, ‘Nana’, ‘Silver Dragon’, ‘Variegatus’.

Ophiopogon planiscapus

‘Nigrescens’ 

black mondograss

6-8” Part sun to part shade Blackish-purple White with pink to lilac tint Leaves appear almost black; black color is best in full sun. Grows in slow spreading clumps. Best in moist, slightly acidic, well-drained soil. May be sold as ‘Arabicus’, ‘Black Dragon’, or ‘Ebony Knight’ but are considered synonymous.

Phormium tenax

New Zealand flax

1-6’ Sun to part shade Bronze, purple, red-orange, green, variegated Dark red Stunning focal point. Rigid, sword-shaped leaves. Grow in average, medium moisture, well-drained soil. Treated as an annual. Cultivars: ‘All Black’, ‘Amazing Red’, Dark Delight’, ‘Duet’, ‘Guardsman’, ‘Mat’s Merlot’, ‘Platt’s Black’, ‘Sundowner’, ‘Variegatum’, ‘Yellow Wave’.

Schoenpolectus tabernaemontani

great bulrush, soft-stem bulrush*

3-9’ Sun  Green  Brown  Thrives in wetlands. Can spread aggressively under ideal conditions. Grow in submerged containers. Cultivar: ‘Zebrinus’ (Zebra rush, banded bulrush).

Sisyrinchium angustifolium

narrow-leaf blue-eyed-grass*

1-1.5’ Sun, part shade Green Blue, deep blue-violet, white Meadows; damp fields; low, open woods. This short-lived perennial will decline if allowed to dry out. Heavy mulch causes crown rot and rich, organic soils encourage rank, vegetative growth. Plants need to be divided at least every other year.

Table 4. Miscanthus Species/Cultivar List

Species

 

Leaf Color Flower Color Height Comments

M. floridulus

Pacific Island silvergrass or giant miscanthus

Green  Pink-tinged 8-10’ Large grass for large areas. Tolerant of wide range of soils including heavy clays and wet soils; tolerant of hot, humid summers. Purple tints on foliage in fall.

M. x giganteus

giant silver grass

Green  Red 9-12’  1” wide foliage; October flowers; huge plant; slightly rhizomatous. Often listed incorrectly as Miscanthus floridulus.

M. oligostachyus

small Japanese silver grass

Green  Pinkish-silver 2-4’ Tolerant of wide range of soils. Prefers moist soils and full sun. Thin flowers; rhizomatous with age; leaves turn bronze-red in fall. Part shade tolerant.

M. ‘Purpurascens’

flame grass 

Green Red tinged to white-beige  5-5.5’ Very hardy; drought sensitive; best in full sun. Leaves with reddish tinge, with red-orange fall color.

M. sacchariflorus

amur silver grass, silver banner grass

Blue-green Silver to white 6’ Invasive rhizomes in wet areas; can reseed itself. Grows in moist to wet soils and best in full sun; flowers fall apart early. Leaves turn yellow in autumn.

M. sinensis var. condensatus

Green  Red-gold 6’ 1-2” leaves; full sun to part shade; moist soils, tolerant of clay soils. A large plant native to coastal southern Japan; dense flowers. 

‘Cabaret’*

Green/creamy white Copper to creamy white 4-6’ Arching, showy foliage; leaves with wide creamy white center, dark green margins. May revert to green. 

‘Cosmopolitan’*

Green/

creamy white

Coppery-pink 6-10’ Showy foliage; broad green midrib with creamy margins. Like M. sinensis ‘Variegatus’ but has wider leaves and a more erect habit; tendency to revert back to green.

M. transmorrisonensis

Green  Creamy to silver 2-4’ Short; can be evergreen; tropical origin in Japan. Narrow green leaves. Inflorescence makes good cut flower. Grows wide to 6-8’.

M. sinensis cultivars: 

       

‘Adagio’

Green/white Pink-gold 5-6’ Fine–textured; short; similar to ‘Yaku Jima’. May spread through seed. 

‘Autumn Light’*

Green  Red 6’ Upright to mounding; showy red flowers. Leaves turn yellowish with purple tinges in fall before fading to tan. 

‘Blondo’

Green/

white

Yellow-gold 6-6.5’ Yellow fall foliage and stems; may lodge and self-seed. 

‘Bluetenwunder’ 

(Flower Wonder)

Green  White-gold 5’ Graceful form. Full sun to bright shade, needs ample water. 

‘Dixieland’*

Green/

white

Red 3-4’ Slightly shorter than ‘Variegatus’. Colorful, good for smaller garden. Wide green leaves with white stripes.

Table 4. Miscanthus Species/Cultivar List 

(Continued)

Species Leaf Color Flower Color Height Comments

M. sinensis cultivars (continued): 

       

‘EMPMISO1’ 

Red Cloud®

Green Rose-gold 3.5’ Great for small gardens. Showy plumes. Adaptable to wide variety of soil conditions. 

‘Ferner Osten’ 

(Far East)

Green/silver Red 4-5’ Strong, compact grower; dark green foliage with bright silver midrib. Showy flowers; medium- to fine-texture. 

‘Fire Dragon’

Green White  6-7’ Leaves turn intense red and orange in fall. Upright accent plant. 

‘Flamingo’

Green/white Deep pink to white 5-5.5’ Flowers pink and slightly pendulous changing to silvery white. Foliage with prominent white midrib turns orange-gold shades in fall. 

‘Gold Bar’*

Green/gold Burgundy  4-5’ Dense, dramatic gold stripes (horizontal bands) on bright green foliage. Compact, upright habit. Great for adding texture to beds. Good in containers. 

‘Gold Breeze’*

Green/gold Yellow  6’ Arching habit. 

‘Goliath’

Green  Red 8-9’ Huge and coarse-textured. Broad, cascading leaves. Yellow fall color. 

‘Gracillimus’*

Green/white  Copper red 5-6’

Stiff and fine-textured; very graceful. Silver midrib on leaf. Foliage turns yellowish with first frost.

 

‘Gracillimus Nana’ is a dwarf form to 3-4’ high. 

‘Graziella’ 

(Graceful)

Green  White-gold 3-4’ Nice, narrow green leaves form a rounded, arching clump. Showy flowers; good fall color. Like ‘Gracillimus’, except blades are more erect and overall height is shorter. 

‘Kaskade’ (cascade)

Green  Pink-white 5-6’ Large, cascading. One of best summer blooming Miscanthus. 

‘Kirk Alexander’

Green/yellow Light red 3-4' Shorter; horizontal banding of yellow, but less than ‘Zebrinus’ and more compact. 

‘Kleine Fontaine’ 

(Little Fountain)

Green  Pink-white 4-6’ Early, continually developing flowers; upright, fountain-like appearance; medium texture; full sun. 

‘Kleine Silberspinne’ 

(Little Sliver Spider)

Green  White-gold 4-4.5’ Small; fine-textured, upright habit, good for small gardens. 

‘Little Kitten’

Green  Cream white  12-15” Very small. Narrow green foliage.

‘Little Miss’

Green Red 2-3’ Foliage graduating from green to brilliant carmine and purple tones in summer, intensifying in fall. Foliage clumps retain their green coloration in the center, providing a delightful two-tone effect. 

‘Little Nickey’ 

(Hinjo)

Green/gold Red  3-4’ Dwarf form of ‘Zebrinus’ and twice as many horizontal bands. 

‘Little Zebra’

Green/ivory to yellow White 3-4’ Arching blades with ivory to yellow bands. 

Table 4. Miscanthus Species/Cultivar List 

(Continued)

Species Leaf Color Flower Color Height Comments

M. sinensis cultivars (continued):

       

‘Malepartus’

Green/white Red 6’ Large showy flowers, good fall color; may self-seed. 

‘Morning Light’*

Green/white Red 4-6’ Tolerant of summer heat and humidity. Keeps upright shape better than other varieties. Beautiful form and texture. 

‘NCMS1’ 

My Fair Maiden™

Green White  6-8.5’ Vase shaped with cascading leaves. Nearly sterile. Good for textural contrast, background plant. 

‘NCMS2B’ 

Bandwidth

Green/yellow Golden brown 2.5-3’ Rust-resistant foliage. Naturally narrow, upright, a wonderful accent for smaller gardens or in groupings in larger scale landscapes. Topped by airy golden-brown plumes in the fall. A non-invasive cultivar. 

‘Nippon’

Green  Beige 4-5’ Early flowers; red stems; good for smaller gardens. May self-seed. 

‘November Sunset’

Green  Red-gold 6-8’ Medium texture. Good specimen plant. Good yellow-orange fall color. Blooms in November. 

‘Positano’

Green  Red-gold 5-6’ Graceful habit, medium height and texture, red blooms, good fall color of reds and oranges. 

‘Puenklchen’

Green/yellow Red 5-5.5’ Finer than and fewer bands than ‘Zebrinus’; similar to ‘Strictus’. 

‘Rigoletto’*

Green/white Light red 5’ Variegated foliage with white margins, like ‘Variegatus’ but slightly shorter and more compact. Excellent for smaller gardens. 

‘Roland’

Green  Pinkish-purple 8-9’ Large and coarse-textured; tall, large pinkish-purple blooms. 

‘Rotsilber’ 

(Red Silver)

Green  Red-silver 5-5.5’ Very showy flowers. Good fall color. 

‘Sarabande’

Green/silver  Red 5-6’ Fine, silvery foliage, golden inflorescence. 

‘Silberfeder’ 

(Silver Feather)

Green  Yellow-gold 6-8’ Beautiful, tall, sliver inflorescence high above foliage. Specimen, groups or good as screen. Large and coarse-textured. 

‘Silberpfeil’ 

(Silver Arrow)

Green/white Light red 6-7’ Very similar to ‘Variegatus’ – green and white variegated foliage with reddish plumes. 

‘Silberspinne’ 

(Silver Spider)

Green  Red-gold 5 – 6’ Fine-textured; silvery flowers; graceful plant for the small garden. 

‘Silberturm’ 

(Silver Tower)

Green  White-gold 8-10’ Good green foliage with large silver flowers. Coarse-textured. 

‘Strictus’* 

porcupine grass

Green/yellow Red-yellow 5-6’ Stiff; columnar; shorter leaves and more banding than ‘Zebrinus’. 

‘Tift M&&’ Scout™

Green Pink  5-6’  Arching foliage becomes red in fall. Accent plant. Infertile and non-invasive.

‘Undine’

Green  Golden-red 5-7’ Medium texture, tall, airy, fine and graceful; leaves with white midrib turn orange and straw colored in autumn. 

‘Variegatus’*

Green/white Red 5-6’ October flowers; arching rounded clump. may lodge when flowering. Green and white striped leaves with white being predominant color from a distance. 

‘Yaku Jima’

Green Beige  3-4’ Short, fine-textured. Looks like dwarf ‘Gracillimus’ (improved form of ‘Adagio’). ‘Yaku Jima Dwarf’ is a compact form growing 2-3’ tall. 

‘Zebrinus’*

Green/yellow Red 6-7’ Long leaves; horizontal yellow zebra-like bands at irregular intervals. Clumps are rounded and tend to flop and may need support.

* Miscanthus trials have indicated that cultivars marked with an asterisk are the better cultivars for being sterile or less weedy in nature.

 

Table 5. Carex Species and Cultivars

Native Species Height Light Foliage Flower Comments

C. amphibola

creek or eastern narrow-leaved sedge

1-2’ Shade to sun Green  Not showy  Fountain shaped form. Attractive, shiny green leaves. Average to wet soil; in full sun it is best in consistently moist soil. Prefers shade and moist conditions. Found growing in deciduous forests. Semi-evergreen. Tends to reseed.

C. appalachica

Appalachian sedge

1' Morning sun to shade Green  Not showy  Thin, fine-textured. Great groundcover for shade and heavy shade areas. Adaptable to a wide range of soils, including clay. Dry to average moisture. Mow high in early to mid-spring. Evergreen. Flowers provide nectar to native insects and seed to birds.

C. bicknellii

Bicknell’s sedge

3' Part sun to sun Green Copper Bunching habit; more tolerant of dry soils than other Carex. Dry to wet soils.

C. blanda

common wood sedge

.5-2’ Shade to sun Green  Green  Evergreen, extremely versatile. Moist to semi-dry conditions; tolerates wide range of soil types. Low mounding form. 

C. brevior

short-beak sedge and plains oval sedge

1' Shade to sun Green  Green  Commonly found in dry areas but adaptable to wetlands and seasonally flooded sights. Fruit is prickly oval spikes that turn golden brown in fall. Bunch form with short rhizomes.

C. bromoides

brome-like sedge

.75-1’ Part shade Green Light green to tan Host plant for several native butterflies and moths, including the eyed brown (Satyrodes eurydice) and several species of skipper. The seeds are attractive to birds.

C. cherokeensis

Cherokee sedge

.5-1’ Part shade to sun Green Green Bunching; spreads via short rhizomes; reseeds heavily; mostly evergreen. Average to wet soils.

C. comosa

bristly sedge, longhair sedge

2-3’ Part shade to sun Green Green Bunching, with short rhizomes; showy seed heads like C. lurida, but green. Average to wet soils.
           

Table 5. Carex Species and Cultivars 

(Continued)

Native Species Height Light Foliage Flower Comments

C. crinita

fringed sedge

1-3’ Shade to sun Blue-green Green  Bunching habit; reseeds slowly to form colonies; hanging seed heads. Average to wet soils.

C. eburnea

bristle-leaf sedge

.5-1’ Part shade to full shade Green Not showy Slowly rhizomatous, reseeds lightly; takes drier conditions with shade; prefers neutral to alkaline soils. Average soils. Fine texture, leaves are needle shaped.

C. flaccosperma

blue wood sedge

1’ Shade to part sun Blue green Greenish white in late spring Forms dense tufts and spreads slowly via short rhizomes. Coarse texture; sturdy, evergreen. Average to moist soils.

C. frankii

Frank’s sedge

1-2’ Part shade to sun Green Green Medium texture. Bunching, rhizomatous spreader; spiky seed heads; food for waterfowl. Moist to wet soils.

C. grayi

Gray’s sedge

3’ Part shade to sun Green Green Bunching; spreads slowly via rhizomes and seed; very showy seed heads. Average to wet soils

C. laxiculmis

creeping sedge

.5-1’ Part to full shade Green to blue-green Not showy Grows well in medium to wet soils, does not like to dry out. Evergreen; cut back in late winter. Cultivar: ‘Hobb’ (Bunny Blue®) blue leaves.

C. leavenworthii

Leavenworth’s sedge

.5-1’ Part shade to shade (sun) Green Green to brown  Clumping evergreen sedge with very narrow dark green leaves. Grows in part sun to shade; will grow in full sun but turns yellowish in color and needs some supplemental irrigation. Good as a woodland groundcover or as a lawn alternative. Drought and heat tolerant when established. Tolerates a wide range of soils as well as seasonal flooding.

C. lurida

lurid or shallow sedge

3’ Part shade to sun Yellow-green Green  Bunching habit; spiky seed heads like C. comosa but yellow. 

C. muskingumensis

palm sedge

3’ Shade to part shade Green Green to brown Palm-like foliage; spreads via rhizomes and seed; can take sun with moist soil. Yellow fall color. Average to moist soil.

C. pensylvanica

Pennsylvania sedge

.5-1’ Shade to part shade Green Green Forms carpet-like colonies; excellent ground cover; takes some sun with moist soil. Dry to moist soil.

C. plantaginea

Plantainleaf sedge, seersucker sedge

.75-1’ Shade to part shade Green Purple  Very attractive, dimpled foliage; can reseed into colonies. Average to moist soil.

C. radiata

eastern star sedge

2-2.5’ Part shade to part sun Green Yellowish-green Bunching habit, foliage arches over; evergreen; like C. rosea but prefers moister conditions. Star-like spikelets. Average to moist soils.

C. retroflexa

reflexed sedge or old field sedge

1-2’ Sun to part shade Green  Green turning brown Dry to moist soils, moderately drought tolerant. Tolerates light foot traffic. Evergreen groundcover.

C. rosea

curly-styled wood sedge, rosy sedge

1’ Part shade to part sun Green Green with rosy-pink Bunching habit, short rhizomes; similar appearance to C. appalachica. Star-like spikelets. Dry to moist soils.

Table 5. Carex Species and Cultivars 

(Continued)

Native Species Height Light Foliage Flower Comments

C. squarosa

squarrose or narrow-leaved cattail sedge

1-3’ Shade to sun Green Green Bunching habit; plump, spiky seed heads; tolerates wet shade. Moist to wet soils.

C. stricta

tussock sedge, upright sedge

1-3’ Part shade to sun Green Brown  Large tussocks on wet sites, more rhizomatous when drier; tolerates seasonal flooding. Good plant for wetland restoration. Provides food and shelter for waterfowl and songbirds. Average to moist soils.

C. texensis

Texas sedge

1’ Part shade to part sun Green Green, petite spikelets in spring  Bunching habit, no conspicuous rhizomes; can form a groundcover that does not need mowing but can be mowed occasionally at a high setting; can handle light foot traffic. Good for naturalizing and restoration. Dry to moist soils; takes sun with more moisture.

C. vulpinoidea

fox sedge 

1-3’ Part shade to sun Green Green  Arching, fine textured leaves; swirling seed clusters. Habitat and cover for wildlife, host for several Skipper butterflies. Bunching; forms colonies via rhizomes; competitive, widespread species. Adaptable. Thrives in full sun, grows in filtered shade of moist woods. Average to moist soils.
Non-native species  Height Light Foliage Flower Comments 

C. buchananii

‘Red Rooster’

2’ Sun Copper-bronze Not showy Upright habit with arching foliage; visually striking. Moist soils.

C. divulsa 

berkley, grey or grassland sedge

1’ Sun to shade  Green Not showy Fine texture, arching clumps. Tolerant of wide range of conditions from heat and humidity to moist to boggy soils, to clay or sandy soils. Drought tolerant, lawn alternative. Meadows, slopes and groundcover. 

C. elata

‘Aurea’

bowles’ golden sedge

2.5’  Part shade to sun Green-gold variegated Not showy Bunching habit; thrives in up to 3” of water. Moist to wet soils. Tolerates slightly dry soils if planted in shade. Fine texture; leaves striped sporadically with bright green lines that turn lime green in shade.

C. flacca

blue sedge

1.5’ Part shade to sun Blue gray Delicate seed heads in spring Somewhat bunching; forms mat-like colonies via rhizomes. Fine texture. Dry to moist soils. ‘Blue Zinger’ has blue green foliage; more upright than species.

C. morrowii

silver variegated Japanese sedge

1’- 1.5 Part to full shade Green/White Not showy Moist soils. Cultivars: ‘Everglow’, ‘Evergold’, ‘Ice Ballet’, ‘Ice Dance’, ‘Irish Green’, ‘Variegata’, C. m.var. temnolepis ‘Silk Tassel’ (green with white variegation).

C. ornithopoda

‘Variegata’

variegated bird’s foot sedge

0.5-1’ Part to full shade Cream/Green  Not showy Compact, dense clump’ evergreen to semi-evegreen. Green leaves with creamy-white margins. Medium to wet soils.

C. oshimensis

Japanese sedge or Oshima kan suge

1’ Shade to part sun Green to lime to yellow and variegated Not showy Fine-textured, grows in low, grass-like mound. Evergreen. Dry to moist soils. Cultivars: ‘Everest’, ‘Evergold’, ‘Everillo’, ‘Everlime’, ‘Eversheen’.

C. scaposa

cherry blossom sedge

 

1’ Part shade to shade Green Pink  Bunching habit w/short rhizomes. Native to stream sides and slopes of southern China and Vietnam. Broad, arching attractive leaves. Repeat bloomer with pink flowers in early spring and early fall. Average to moist soil.

C. siderosticha

broad-leaf sedge

 

.5-1’ Part shade to full shade Green Not showy Broad-leaved, deciduous, rhizomatous, creeping sedge. Medium to wet soils. Cultivars: ‘Banana Boat’, ‘Snow Cap’ ‘Variegata’.

C. ‘Silver Sceptre’

Silver Sceptre Japanese variegated sedge

 

1’ Shade to part shade Green w/white margins Not showy  Slightly curl of foliage. Spreads slowly via rhizomes; good for shade. Until recently was believed to be a selection of C. morrowii, but now the correct species is undetermined. Moist soils.

C. testacea

‘Prairie Fire’

Prairie Fire New Zealand hair sedge

 

2’ Sun Green-bronze w/orange tips Brown, not showy  Upright habit with arching foliage; showy foliage tips. Orange color of foliage intensifies in full sun. Moist soils.

Table 6. Bamboo Species:

Running types require forethought and ultimately neoprene or concrete barriers. The consumer would be best served by mainly limiting bamboo selections to the clumper/clumping types; green industry professionals can help with environmentally appropriate bamboo species.

Name Habit Height Light Comments

Smaller Bamboo:

       

Chusquea culeou

‘Caña Prieta’

Chilean bamboo

Clumping 8-10’ Sun to part shade Striking cultivar with dark red, new culms; thin, upright poles less than an inch thick; solid culms, rather than hollow; evergreen. Cold hardy to 0o F. 

Indocalamus tessellatus

large-leaved bamboo

Running  5-10’ Sun or part shade; prefers shade and is tolerant of dark shade Very tropical looking bamboo with the largest leaves of any bamboo in cultivation.

Pleioblastus chino

‘Elegantissimus

Running  10’ Part shade Leaves are green with thin white stripes of varying lengths. Good for erosion. Good in containers; can be very invasive in good soil conditions.

Pleioblastus chino

‘Vaginatus Variegatus’

Running  6’ Part shade Smaller, more narrow, white striped leaves, hairless on both surfaces. Very attractive ornamental. The rhizomes run deep in the ground. Good for erosion. Good in containers; can be very invasive in good soil conditions.

Pleioblastus fortunei

dwarf white-striped bamboo

Running  2.5’ (4’) Shade to part sun Bold white on green variegated foliage. Good for erosion. Good in containers; can be very invasive in good soil conditions.

Pleioblastus pygmaeus

pygmy bamboo

Running  2’ Part shade Good for erosion. Good in containers; can be very invasive in good soil conditions.

Pleioblastus shibuyanus

‘Tsuboi’

Running  2-6’ Sun to light shade Good for erosion. Good in containers; can be very invasive in good soil conditions.

Pleioblastus viridistriatus

Running  2-3’ Sun or shade Groundcover bamboo. Variegated with stripes of gold, yellow and cream. Mow it down in spring to encourage vibrant colors and short, dense groundcover. Good for erosion. Good in containers; can be very invasive in good soil conditions.

Sasa tsuboiana

Running  6’ Part shade Large dark green leaves and is an excellent choice for a mid-sized hedge. Does best in an area that gets some afternoon shade. Fairly fast spreading, uniform foliage.

Sasa veitchii

kuma bamboo

Running  2-5’ Shade to part shade Leaves dark green turning green with white edges in the fall. Evergreen.

Sasaella masamuneana

‘Albostriata’

white-striped hairy bamboo

Running  3-6’ Sun or part shade Stunning variegation. It, like many other groundcover bamboos, benefits from mowing to the ground early each spring.

Table 6. Bamboo Species:

(Continued)

Name Habit Height Light Comments

Medium Bamboo

       

Fargesia denudata

Clumping 10-15’ Shade to part shade Arch gracefully. Tolerates icy and humid environments.

Fargesia murielae

umbrella bamboo

Clumping 10-14’ Part shade New shoots are light blue, turning dark green and yellow with age. Growing in shade will preserve the rich blue shade. May not do well in high heat and humid areas.

Fargesia nitida

blue fountain bamboo

Clumping 15’ Part shade Dark purple, bluish culms and thick cascading canopy of foliage. May not do well in high heat and humid areas. Cultivar: ‘Nanping’.

Fargesia robusta

Clumping 18’ Shade to part shade Makes an excellent hedge plant with attractive, persistent culm sheaths. May not do well in high heat and humid areas. Cultivars: ‘Campbell’, ‘Pingwu’ ‘Green Screen’, ‘Wenchuan’, ‘Wolong’.

Fargesia scabrida

‘Oprins Selection’ Asian Wonders

Clumping 16’ Shade to part shade Colorful, with orange culm sheaths and stems that are blue gray but mature to a rich olive shade. May not do well in high heat and humid areas.

Pleioblastus simonii

‘Variegatus

Running  20’ Part sun Leaves on a culm may be different types – broad, narrow, green or white striped. Good for erosion. Good in containers; can be very invasive in good soil conditions.

Pseudosasa japonica

arrow bamboo

Running  15-18’ Sun or shade Tropical looking with large leaves. Good for growing indoors.

Table 6. Bamboo Species:

(Continued)

Name Habit Height Light Comments

Timber Bamboo 

       

Chusquea gigantea

giant chusquea bamboo, giant clumping bamboo, Chilean bamboo

Clumping 20-25’ Sun to light shade Open clumper, will spread a little more than other clumping types. New shoots come up pinkish and grow quickly turning an attractive, bright yellow-green, glossy color and a mid-green band around the pronounced nodes, solid culms, rather than hollow. Hardy to about 5o F.

Phyllostachys aurea

golden bamboo

Running  10-20’ Sun or shade Short, swollen internodes at base. Culms are light green with a white node ring, turning more yellow if exposed to full sun. Can spread aggressively. 

Phyllostachys aureosulcata

yellow groove bamboo

Running  26’ Sun Has green culms with a yellow groove. Can spread aggressively.

Phyllostachys bambusoides

timber bamboo

Running 20-25’ Sun to part shade One of the largest bamboos. Smooth culms are emerald green with large drooping leaves. Best in large gardens or lots. Can be aggressive spreader in optimum conditions.

Phyllostachys flexuosa

zig-zag bamboo

Running 20-25’   Evergreen; spreading, arching habit. Yellow-green culms are slightly wavy. Can spread aggressively.

Phyllostachys nigra

‘Henon’

Henon black bamboo

Running  45-65’ Sun or shade Massive, strong bamboo. Culms are rough to the touch and whitish green when mature. Can spread aggressively.

Phyllostachys viridiglaucescens

green-glaucous bamboo

Running 15-25’ Sun to part shade Evergreen, powdery lime-green canes with white node stripes. Can spread aggressively in ideal conditions.

Semiarundinaria fastuosa

Narihira or temple bamboo

Running  25-30’ Sun or shade Has brick red culms and deep green leaves. Specimen, good for narrow spaces. 

Table 6. Bamboo Species:

(Continued)

Name Habit Height Light Comments

Rare Species or Collector Bamboo

       

Hibanobambusa

tranquillans ‘Shiroshima’

Running  6-16’ Sun or part shade Striking variegation on large leaves. Hardy to zone 6.

Phyllostachys vivax

‘Aureocaulis’ – golden vivax

Running  35-70’ Sun or shade Striped bamboo, culms are radiant yellow with random and varying green stripes. Needs plenty of space.

Resources:

  • The Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses, John Greenlee, Rodale Press.
  • Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder, http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/plantfinder/plantfindersearch.aspx 
  • Oklahoma Native Grasses, Connie Scothorn, Brian Patric, The Roadrunner Press.
  • Ornamental Grasses – 7.232, Colorado State University Extension
  • Ornamental Grasses for Cold Climates, M. Hockenberry Meyer, Department of Horticultural Science, University of Minnesota
  • Ornamental Grasses, Bamboos, Rushes & Sedges, Nigel Taylor

 

Sources:

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