Most green ornamental grasses are cool season plants, but the purple fountain-like plumes of Carex ‘Red Rooster’ (Carex buchananii) are year-round. This variety of sedge grass is a great choice for the back of the garden, adding texture from a distance. It tolerates light drought conditions at maturity, though it needs watering weekly its first year.
Japanese Blood Grass
This perennial is a beautiful addition to any garden, from foundations and mass plantings to containers. It thrives in full sun and a variety of soil conditions. It is drought tolerant once established, but needs regular watering in hot weather. It also benefits from a yearly application of slow-release fertilizer to support its growth.
A clump-forming grass, it has green blades with red-tinted tips that deepen to scarlet throughout the summer. It is a dramatic addition to the landscape, especially when planted in groups. The leaves of this ornamental grass look great when combined with plants that have contrasting foliage colors, such as Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ or Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’.
Japanese blood grass (Imperata cylindrica) is considered an invasive plant in some areas because of its propensity to spread through rhizomes and self-seed. However, if the plant is kept in a container and not allowed to revert to its green form, it has little problem with invasiveness.
Purple Fountain Grass
Purple fountain grass is a great choice to add color and texture to the garden. It is deer-resistant and tolerates a wide range of conditions, making it suitable for many locations. It can be propagated by division or by bringing the plant indoors for overwintering. In the winter, it should be kept in a cool place where it can retain its color and moisture until spring.
This beautiful ornamental grass does well in most soil types, but it prefers moist and fertile conditions. It can grow in full sun, and it blooms with long plumes during the summer. It is also drought-tolerant. Its foliage takes on a stunning burgundy hue in the fall, providing additional garden color to contrast with rich autumn tones such as golds, oranges and reds. Ornamental grasses are often carefree plants and are easy to plant and maintain. They are tolerant of most soils and require little to no fertilizer. They are typically mowed in late winter to expose new growth.
As a grass, ornamental millet (Pennisetum glaucum) is an excellent choice for adding height and color to garden areas. It is very tolerant of drought, salt levels and soil pH balance. It is also very easy to grow. It requires full sun and consistent warm temperatures to encourage deep colors. Plant in late spring or early summer when the ground has warmed.
This attractive grass produces burgundy to purple-blue to gold tan feathery panicles* on stems that can reach 3 feet or more over the foliage. They resemble cattails and will continue to sway in the breeze well into winter. The seed spikes are a welcome treat for birds.
Unlike many other types of ornamental plants, perennial grasses stay beautiful all year round and are durable in harsh weather conditions. Some are even drought-tolerant and low-maintenance, making them a perfect solution for the busy gardener. They can be planted in groups or mixed with other plantings to add texture and movement to the landscape.
Japanese Red Grass
Japanese blood grass adds a bold accent to the garden, especially in a sunny front yard border or rock garden. It is also a great choice for a Japanese style garden or even planted in mass as ground cover. It is not prone to the heat or drought that affects some other ornamental grasses, and its foliage is resistant to deer and rabbits.
The bright green leaves are tipped with true scarlet red, and the grass is easy to grow in full sun or partial shade. Like other ornamental grasses, it prefers to be planted in well-draining soil. Watering regularly is important to support the plants’ growth, but it should be done sparingly so that the soil never becomes waterlogged.
Most of the green ornamental grasses mentioned in this article are perennial, but a few, such as purple fountain grass and hare’s tail, are annual. Ornamental grasses are a fantastic option for the South Florida landscape as they add fine texture to the garden and serve as a backdrop to larger thriller plants, such as flowers or shrubs.