Ornamental Grasses for Fall

Perennial grasses are beautiful in the garden all year but particularly shine in the fall. As they ripen off to fall shades and seed heads mature they take over from the rainbow of colors in the summer garden. Perennial grass range in size from dwarf to giants and are some of the hardest working plants you will grow. Requiring very little care once planted, rarely needing fertilizing or protection from pests.

Sensible Gardening and Living
Sensible Gardening and Living

Their only demand is to be cut right back to a few inches each spring so they can begin again for another season. You can cut them back in the fall as well but it seems a shame to do so. They are great all winter blowing in the breezes and sprinkled with snow and frost if you get it. They supply seed for birds in winter and landing stops as well. There are many types of grass to choose from, some are hardy to even the harshest winters so no matter where you garden you should be able to find something suitable. Just one word of caution! Stick to clump forming grasses unless you want to plant an acre or two. The runners can become a nightmare in the average garden.

Festuca glauca

At just 8 inches tall with blue-green foliage this tuft forming grass makes for a great edging plant or a mass planting. Flowers are held about 12 inches above the plant in late spring. By mid summer I cut the flower stems off to prevent it from self seeding, as in the right area it can be a problem.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’

Of all the tall grasses this is my favorite.Upright to 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide give this beauty a lot of room. Magenta plumes appear in mid fall in warmer climates. With white and green stripped foliage this grass makes for a stunning specimen plant. Use as an accent or at the back of a border.

Andropogon gerardii

A very hardy 6 foot bold clump forming grass. Blue-green foliage turns bronze and red tones in late summer with purple flower spikes. The seed heads can be used in dried arrangements.

Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Stricta’ 

Grows 6 feet tall and nearly as wide. Feather panicles of yellow flowers appear in spring, and turn to gold by the fall. A strong stemmed plant that will withstand winter winds and snow.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘silberfeder’

Another tall ornamental grass growing 6 feet tall and 6 feet wide and is one of the earliest flowering miscanthus. Silver white featherlike plumes rise 3 feet above the green foliage. Each green leaf has a silver midrib running its length. Use as a specimen or a screen.

Pennisetum alopercuroides

Shorter at 2 feet by a 3 foot spread. Arching stems bear soft, bottlebrush clusters of fuzzy creamy white flowers. Use as a specimen or in mass plantings.