Ornamental grasses can be perennial or annual, depending on where you garden. Tall ‘Morning Light’ maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’) is a perennial in Zones 5-9. It forms a fountain-like clump 4 to 5 feet tall and up to 3 feet wide. The fuzzy heads of purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’) appear in summer atop plants that grow up to 3 feet tall and wide. This grass is tropical, hardy in Zones 9-11. In colder regions, treat it as an annual.
Fountain grass comes in a variety of sizes, as well as leaf and seedhead colors. It gets its name from the fact that the flowers and seedheads erupt from the arching mound of leaves like water from a fountain. This duet of fountain grass features (left) Prairie Winds ‘Desert Plains’ fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) and (right) purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’). ‘Desert Plains’ is hardy in Zones 5-9 and grows roughly 4 feet tall and wide. The bottlebrush flowers start dusky purple and fade to tan. Purple fountain grass is an annual in most regions (Hardy in Zones 9-11), growing up to 3 feet tall and wide. Cut it down after frost once leaves turn brown.
There’s an ornamental grass to fit every landscape. Prairie Winds ‘Totem Pole’ switch grass (Panicum virgatum) is the go-to grass for tight spaces. This selection of a native tall prairie grass forms a sturdy upright clump with a small footprint. Plants grow to 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide. Steel-blue leaves bring subtle color to plantings. Seedheads appear in late summer and linger through winter. ‘Totem Pole’ works well in containers, or count on it to add a strong vertical element to planting beds. Hardy in Zones 4-9.
The front yard is planted with native grass seed and ornamental grasses at varied levels to create an edge for the entry patio. The linear design of the building extends into the landscape with concrete curbs and planters.