Decorative Grass Plants: Grace in Motion

The luminous qualities of decorative grass plants add a silvery elegance to our late season gardens. Sunshine lights up their plumes like quicksilver.  The gentlest breeze sets them in to a graceful, musical dance. They define our landscapes with linear, architectural strokes that can be dainty or bold.  While most decorative grass plants will be happiest growing in full sun, there are a number of gorgeous shade loving varieties that will brighten up a shady garden. With an impressive variety of color, size and texture you'll be sure to find just the right spot for them in your garden. Whether reaching for the sky with a towering Andropogon (Big Bluestem) or a planting of Nassella (Mexican Feather Grass) to gracefully spill on to a pathway, we really can't do without these stalwarts of the late summer gardens.


In general, the blade like foliage starts to emerge in late Spring-early Summer. Depending on the variety, grass plants provide a defined linear graphic to the garden as they emerge, followed by an abundance of graceful arching foliage later into the Summer . Again, depending on the variety, their silvery plumes arise in late Summer into the Fall finishing off a soft tawny- buff color in late Fall into Winter.

A direct decedent of a Native American prairie grass often referred to as "The Monarch of Prairie Grass's". This is a clump forming, upright grass and regal in its growth habit, may reach 5-8' when in flower.  Most effective in Summer with lush green foliage with a hint of blue, turning a brilliant coppery orange in Fall which then takes on hints of purple after the first frost.  Plumes appear in late August-early September.  This grass will adapt to a variety of soil conditions, however, it will be at its best in full sun and hardy in zones 3-7. A dramatic plant useful as a single specimen, planted in groups or used as a deciduous screening.


A delicate looking, low growing grass (8") with slender green foliage. This semi-evergreen grass will do well in average to slightly dry soil conditions in some shade. It spreads by underground rhizomes.  Often used in a woodland setting as a lush groundcover with a charming tousled appearance.  The flower is not as showy as other grass with their soaring plumes.  It will tolerate a sunnier location with ample irrigation. Also used as a meadow-like shady lawn alternative, but tread lightly as it will only tolerate minor foot-traffic. Hardy to zones 4-8.


This species is a native to wet, rocky cliffs of Mount Hakone in Japan.  Its graceful cascading foliage is slightly reminiscent of bamboo.  Its growth habit is considered to be clump forming however, it actually spreads slowly by underground rhizomes.  This plant requires moist, organic, well-drained soil for optimum health in light shade. Flower plumes are subtle and appear in mid-Summer.  There are a number of varieties available with striking foliage colors:  bright green, variegated stripes and golden yellow. Try this versatile gem of a plant for the shade garden, or in a pot for the Summer.  Hardy to zones: 4-8.


Native to dry open, rocky and wooded areas of Texas and Mexico. Very finely textured foliage adds a sweeping elegance to the garden. The attractive bright green foliage turns silvery or straw colored by mid-season. The flower plume often referred to as inflorescence appear in early Summer. The plumes are persistent and may remain throughout the Winter. Plant in full sun with well-drained soil. This grass will tolerate a fairly dry condition so be careful not to let it get waterlogged. Its overall height is 18" and hardy to zones: 7-10. This plant is marginally hardy here on Eastern Long Island.