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Ornamental Grasses Conserve Water

7/4/2012 10:59:25 AM

Tags: Heidi Cardenas, xeriscape, native plants, native grasses, ornamental grasses

Heidi CardenasBased in Lake County, Illinois, Heidi Cardenas has been freelancing since 2000. She studied business administration at the College of Lake County and has a background in human resources administration. She has written for "Chicago Parent Magazine" and guest blogs for The Herb Companion, Natural Living and TribLocal. She enjoys writing on a wide range of topics, but especially gardening, natural living, and home and family eco topics, and she helps you get your green on at 

Busy homeowners with little time to water, weed and separate overgrown landscaping plants will appreciate ornamental grasses. They are a great addition to a xeriscape landscape plan (landscaping with hardy native plants to conserve water and minimize maintenance). If you don’t want to convert totally to a xeriscape landscape, ornamental grasses are still a beautiful, easy-to-maintain addition to any landscape.

I love the beautiful fountain-shaped sprays of the larger grasses and the way they sway and shimmy in the wind. Many ornamental grasses have very showy seedheads that last well into the winter season and look amazing when cut in bunches and displayed in tall vases or floor stands inside. The best part of growing ornamental grasses is that they don’t need coddling. They won’t need careful attention to watering and are not prone to pest infestations, and most are perennials that will return year after year.

Use tall ornamental grasses at the back of flower borders for a dramatic effect or use one or two plants as displays in your landscape. I have seen dwarf grasses used in rock gardens and in “dry” gardens mulched with decorative gravel. Some of the grasses are a beautiful blue-green color and look amazing when planted near purple and red flowering plants. I highly recommend using ornamental grasses in your garden and landscape to add beauty and cut down on water and maintenance. 

pampas grass 
Pampas grass. Photo By Sergio in Nagasaki/Courtesy Flickr.

Here are just some of my favorites:

Common Quaking Grass

Quaking grass is a pretty, delicate-looking grass that grows 2 to 3 feet tall on thin stems with blue-green leaves. Its tiny light purple flowers add movement and delightful sound to the garden when they rustle in the wind. Also called trembling grass, common quaking grass is great for mass plantings or as a backdrop for pink and purple flowers like cosmos.  

Karl Foerster Grass

Karl Foerster grass, or feather reed grass, is a tall, upright grass that grows in neat clumps. It can get up to 6 feet tall and is non-invasive, so it does not spread and stays where you plant it. Its pink/bronze flower heads lend a beautiful, soft watercolor style to the landscape. Feather reed grass is a good plant for along fences or on the side of sheds. It is a good plant to screen undesirable views or to accent a landscape feature such as a pond or fountain.

Pampas Grass

Pampas grass (Cortaderia) is another tall grass, growing up to 5 feet high with wide leaves and very showy seedheads that resemble thick feathers. Pampas grass has a fountain-shaped growth habit and needs some room in the garden or landscape. It is sensitive to wet feet and overwatering, so it needs a location with full sun and very good drainage to stay healthy. 

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