10 Ornamental Grasses to Grow in Your Yard

Updated: May 22, 2024

Ornamental grass is beautiful, boisterous and bountiful. They're also easy to grow and pretty much deer- and drought-tolerant. Here are 10 you might want to try in your own yard.

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img_2568 Fountain ornamental Grass with kale
Image: Luke Miller/Oldsmobile Trees

Fountain Ornamental Grass

Fountain ornamental grass (Pennisetum spp.) gets its name from the graceful, fountainlike foliage. The shape alone is enough reason to grow this beautiful grass. It’s decorated with fuzzy flower plumes in late summer. In fall, the foliage turns buff, which nicely contrasts darker plants like the kale in this photo. This is ‘Hamlen’ dwarf fountain grass, which reaches just 2-3-ft. tall. Best in zones 4-11.
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Prairie Dropseed ornamental grass
Photo: Luke Miller/Oldsmobile Trees

Prairie Dropseed Ornamental Grass

Prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) is a handsome prairie ornamental grass with emerald green, hairlike foliage, and an arching shape. The foliage grows just 15-18-in. tall, with flower spikes reaching twice that height in late summer. Being tolerant of poor, dry soils, prairie dropseed is well suited for erosion control on slopes. It can also be used to replace lawn grass, needing less watering, fertilizing and mowing. Best in zones 3-9.
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shutterstock_35929903 Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass
Mark Herreid/Shutterstock

Karl Foerster Feather Reed Ornamental Grass

Karl Foerster’s feather reed ornamental grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’) has a rigid, upright shape. This grass punctuates the landscape, especially as the flower spikes begin to turn a rich golden color in fall. Foliage grows 18-24-in. tall, while the stalks (which make great cut flowers) can reach double that height. Feather reed grass accepts moist or dry soils. Best in zones 4-9.
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shutterstock_40903738 Flame Grass
Jorge Salcedo/Shutterstock

Flame Ornamental Grass

Flame ornamental grass (Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’) is known for its brilliant reddish-orange fall foliage, punctuated by creamy white plumes. The medium green summer foliage takes on reddish hues as the season progresses, eventually reaching a height of 3-4-ft. Best in zones 5-9.
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shutterstock_162723125 porcupine ornamental grass

Porcupine Ornamental Grass

Porcupine ornamental grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’) and its cousin zebra grass (M. sinensis ‘Zebrinus’) are easy to spot in the garden. The bright green blades have golden bands, so they definitely stand out. Zebra grass has a relaxed habit and it grows up to 5-ft. tall. Porcupine grass is more upright and can reach 8-ft. in height. Best in zones 4-9.
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shutterstock_176612621 Maiden grass
Maiden Grass/ Shutterstock

Maiden Ornamental Grass

Maiden ornamental grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’) looks exquisite when backlit by morning light… or afternoon light…. or when sitting in the garden on a cloudy day. The arching foliage is decorated with narrow stripes of white, and reaches 4-5-ft. This grass looks great all season. In late summer, dramatic plumes rise another foot, carrying the show through fall and winter. Best in zones 5-9.
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shutterstock_434872174 sedge ornamental grass
JPL Designs/Shutterstock

Sedge Ornamental Grass

Sedge (Carex spp.) is a brightly colored, small ornamental grass for borders and containers and looks particularly good when massed. The most common varieties found at garden centers have chartreuse, variegated or even tan foliage. The unique colors of the grasslike foliage are what really make sedge a popular garden plant. Best in zones (4)5-8(9), depending on the cultivar.
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shutterstock_447430501 blue fescue edging ornamental grass
Kathryn Roach/Shutterstock

Blue Fescue Ornamental Grass

Blue fescue (Festuca glauca) is a great ornamental grass to grow when space is tight. It’s small and tidy—just 1-ft. tall—so you can use it to edge the front of a flower bed. Fortunately, the blue-gray foliage won’t get lost among the greenery. Best in zones 3-8.
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shutterstock_542142598 Purple Fountain Grass
Suriya Desatit/Shutterstock

Purple Fountain Ornamental Grass

Purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Purpureum’) is an ornamental grass for people who normally wouldn’t grow ornamental grass. Grown as an annual in most places, it is often used as a backdrop for annual flowerbeds and as a centerpiece in a container. The dark foliage and tan flowerheads are a sight to behold. Best in zones 8-11.
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pampas grass

Pampas Ornamental Grass

Dwarf pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana ‘Pumila’) is highly recognizable thanks to the huge white feathery plumes that decorate its thick, blue-green foliage in late summer and fall. Although this pampas grass is a dwarf,  it still reaches 5-ft. tall, so place it in the back of a border. Best in zones 6-10.