From monkey grass to pampas grass and all types in between, ornamental grasses can make almost any statement a gardener wants to make, from a soft border plant to a bold focal point.
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1. When should I cut ornamental grasses back?
If you're going to cut them back, then you should do it in the winter when they are dormant. Not all grasses like to be cut back, but if the blades are brown, you can cut them back all the way to the soil level. If there is still green in the blades, then just cut the tips back.
2. Do you have to worry about containing ornamental grasses from spreading too rapidly?
Everybody has heard that bamboo can take over your yard. And it is an ornamental grass, but it's the exception to the rule. Most of the ornamental grasses will clump rather than run, but if you are concerned about keeping them under control, then you can actually plant them in large pots under the soil. Just make sure the pots have plenty of drainage holes, and know that you'll have to divide them every few years to prevent them from becoming root-bound.
3. Can I move monkey grass from one area of my yard to another?
Absolutely! In fact, monkey grass is very hardy and can be divided and spread to different areas, or you can dig it up and move it. If you do plant to move it, it's best do it in the winter when the grass is dormant, before the new spring growth comes in. Dig around the plant with a spading fork to get the rootball loose and then lift it up and put it in its new home. It's that easy!
4. Are there any varieties of ornamental grasses that will grow in the shade?
Almost all of the ornamental grasses need at least some sun, but there are plenty that will grow in partial shade. Here are a few of the common varieties:
Blue oat grass
Feather reed grass
Japanese silver grass
Japanese forest grass
5. What types of ornamental grasses provide the most color to the garden?
There are several types of ornamental grasses that provide color. Blue fescue has a beautiful blue tone to it, as does blue lyme grass. But for brilliant color, try one of these:
Japanese bloodgrass, an ornamental grass with tufts of intensely red leaf blades that will add a striking touch to any landscape. It has an upright and open growth habit, grows 12"-18" tall. Use for borders and rock gardens. Does best in full sun. Zones 5-10.
Rose fountain produces elegant arching leaves and beautiful rose-copper flower plumes in July.
Little bluestem, a native prairie grass, produces green- and blue-hued leaves during the summer months. In the fall, the leaves turn an outstanding bright cinnamon-red topped with fluffy silver-white seed stalks. Does best in full sun. Zones 4-10.
In partial shade, Japanese forest grass, a lovely smaller grass with variegated leaves, lights up the shade quite well.
Black mondo grass, also small and choice, makes a wonderful edge to a walkway or a clump below a rock.
All of these are good choices to bring a little color with an ornamental grass.