Johnson's Landscaping logo
Rated 4.6/5.0 on 130+ Google Reviews
Multiflex logo

Call us Today

Picking an Ornamental Landscaping Grass

Jul 1, 2020 | Lawns

When planning landscaping, the grass you’re picturing may be the ones in a classic, potentially predictable, front lawn. However, landscaping grasses can bring more than this uniformity. There are dozens of ornamental grasses and grass-like plants commonly used in landscaping for their hardiness, dramatic colors and sizes, and their diverse utility and appearance. When planning to add new landscaping, ornamental grasses are a great option to consider for these reasons and more.

There are many questions to consider when deciding which landscaping grass will best fit your needs. One important point you should consider is the new grass’ intended purpose — are you hoping to fill beds or cover ground, to create a visual focal point or to fill space, to line paths, or hide an eyesore?

Here are some factors that will help you choose which variety of ornamental landscaping grass will work best once you land on answers to these questions.

Type of Landscaping Grasses

There are many different types of landscaping grasses. These include both true grasses and plants that are grass-like in appearance, such as sedges. There are both perennial and annual varieties or landscaping grass. Perennial grasses will grow for at least two years, while annual grasses live only for one season because of their biological growth cycle or their incompatibility with the climate.

Different types of grasses grow by either clumping or spreading. Of course, if you are looking to fill space, you should do research into spreading grasses. These grasses grow quickly with aboveground or subterranean stems, so you have to be careful when planting these to ensure they do not take over the rest of your yard’s plants. On the other hand, bunching grasses grow in clumps and more gradually expand in diameter.

In addition to width, different landscaping grasses vary in height. If you are looking for ground cover, you should consider a grass that grows just a few inches close to the ground or in a low mound. These short varieties are great options if you are substituting hardy grasses for shorter flowers and shrubs. This is compared to a tall grass that can grow up to 15 feet tall and form dramatic fountains that will provide visual diversity and attention. They can also provide privacy for your yard or a visual distraction for a part of your yard you are looking to cover.

The Visual Appeal of Ornamental Landscaping Grasses

The texture of ornamental plants is often overlooked for color and size when designing a landscape plan. And yet texture will be a critical part of creating diversity and beauty in your yard especially if flowers are minimal. Ornamental grasses vary in texture with fine to coarse leaf blades and stiff to arching leaf forms. Many landscaping grasses are desired for their softness and wind-blown texture, while some are wispy and graceful, like Indian grass. Still others, such as zebra grass or fescue, add structure with stiffness and upright posture. These grow well in pots. Textures can be used to your advantage to create beautiful diversity and fulfill a utilitarian purpose.

Color is a more obvious consideration than texture when starting landscape design. Many people may think that they need to plant a garden full of finicky annual flowers to create the beauty and dynamism they are looking for in their yard. However, ornamental grasses are a perfect substitute for these delicate plants as they are hardy, adaptable, and often perennial, and they come in a rainbow of colors to boot! A bed full of landscape grasses can achieve just as much color as a flower garden with much less maintenance and fewer resources required. Grasses like Japanese blood grass and golden sedge add substantial and unexpected boosts of color that last long after spring flower blooms.

Many grasses also come with ornamental features like flower heads. These flowers can last for weeks or even months and provide visual diversity through the winter. They vary in size, color, and texture. Along with texture and color, these features add variety and interest to a garden like few other plants can.

The Adaptability of Ornamental Landscaping Grasses

You will also have to consider the seasonal variety of grass types to ensure they will fit your home climate conditions well. Cool-season grasses have new growth in the fall and winter months and stop growing in the summer heat. Warm-season plants expand quickly with the heat of spring and summer and bloom towards the end of the summer and fall. Depending on your garden’s plants’ rhythm and the climate, one or a mix of these varieties may work for you.

In addition to grass variety, adaptability is an important consideration for your landscaping choices’ long-term success. The same variety of grass can thrive in one habitat, invasively take over a garden in another, and completely wither away in a third. Climate, soil, and surroundings all impact a grass’ growth. For example, marshy areas lend themselves to cattails, perhaps too well, leading to invasiveness, and yet they will not grow in drier soil. Other grasses prefer well-drained soil, and still others look for prairie habitat and wither away in humidity. Some grasses will even be able to provide erosion control in hilly yards. Most grasses prefer full sun and well-drained soil, but some thrive in part to full shade.You should research your local topography to understand your area’s soil drainage, humidity, and heat and, therefore, the grasses that will grow best for your needs and requirements.

With all of this in mind, it is clear that grasses are an excellent choice for your yard, whether you plan for utility, beauty, or both. Landscaping grasses are easy to maintain, come in various shapes, colors, and textures, and can serve diverse needs from creating ground cover to hiding eyesores. There are many ornamental grasses to choose from. Ultimately you will have to decide on the purpose you are looking for the grass to serve, and it is almost certain you will be able to find a variety that can fit that need and then some.

Claim a Free Consultation

About the Author

Matt Johnson grew up in a family of landscapers and gardeners as the grandson of Raymond Johnson (Founder, 1933, Johnson's Florist and Garden Center) and son of James and Carol Johnson (Founders, 1960, Johnson's Landscaping Service, Inc.). Since 2007, he has led Johnson's Landscaping Service with his brother, Charlie.  Matt and his wife Jaime live in Petworth in Northwest DC with their 3 sons and 2 big dogs.

20% OFF September SALE!
20% OFF All Landscaping Projects that Start in September 2023

Offer is valid for all new planting and new construction projects over $2,500 that start by 9/30/23.
Cannot be combined with other offers.


50% Off Your First Month of Landscape Maintenance

50% OFF your first month landscape maintenance 


Offer is only valid on new landscape maintenance contracts that run through December 31, 2023.
Cannot be combined with other offers.


Save 100% with your FREE Landscape Consultation!

We answer phones Monday-Friday 8-5. If you have questions, please call (301) 656-6414.

Get in Touch


Social Media

Mailing Address

PO Box 459 Olney-Laytonsville Road
Olney, MD 20832

Johnson's Landscaping logo

Our Locations

7201 Brookville Road
Chevy Chase, MD 20815


5011 Olney-Laytonsville Road
Olney, MD 20832