Outstanding Ornamental Grasses For Landscapes And Containers

Ornamental grasses have it all — beauty, versatility, adaptability — and then some. With striking new colors and showier flowers, they present growers with the perfect opportunity to offer a real value item to their customers.

Plus, widespread cultivation and consumer demand means availability is better than ever. Jim Nau of Ball Horticultural Co. points out that the availability of more interesting ornamental grass varieties from seed means the ability to produce in smaller-than-normal pack or pot sizes. “Growers appreciate the flexibility of being able to buy plugs, which in turn makes grasses more readily available to landscape contractors,” Nau says.

 

 

 

In addition, you’ll also want to make sure you’re up-to-date if you tend to stick to the tried and true.
To that end, Susan Martin of Walters Garden urges growers to take the time to learn about recent introductions because the market has seen significant changes over the past decade in genera like pennisetum, panicum, andropogon and schizachyrium.

Ornamental Grasses Are Perfect For Containers

Containers aren’t just for flowers anymore. With a little creativity, ornamental grasses can be stunning alone or grouped together in just the right container.

Pamela Straub of Emerald Coast Growers says ornamental grasses biggest benefit is the visual effect they add to containers with their cascading foliage and varied textures. She suggests unique combos such as juncus, acorus and carex, and pennisetum and sedum. For single-grass containers use P. ‘Fireworks’ pennisetum and ‘Prairie Blue’ schizachyrium.

“Size and form matters when combining grasses with other plants, keep in mind how the grass grows,” Nau says. “Consider how the grass spreads at the top, not just at the base of the plant. Pick the right container for the grass and its companions. Match more vigorous, open varieties with equally vigorous plants.”

One common issue with combination containers is timing. Scott Epps of Hoffman Nursery says warm season grasses can be slow to get going in early spring, especially if it is cool. Fast-growing annuals can overtake the grasses before they have a chance to take off. Epps advises planting a larger grass, using a smaller annual plug or delaying planting by a couple of weeks.

For containers, Epps recommends two cool season grasses for their small size and great color. Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ and Arrhenatherum elatius subsp. bulbosum ‘Variegatum.’ Additionally, try Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’ for exceptional performance in low-water conditions.

Ornamental Grasses Suitable For Almost Any Landscape

In addition to making great container plants, grasses are an excellent choice for the landscape, especially in low water areas.

Allen Bush of Jelitto suggests grasses like Saccharum ravennae for height, Stipa tenuissima for broad sweeps and Sporobolus wrightii for an accent plant.

Other notable grasses include pennisetum ‘Desert Plains,’ which can be used for a focal point in a sunny landscapes and schizachyrium ‘Standing Ovation,’ a tough performer that keeps a tight, upright habit through most of the season. For a mid-summer flush of purple-mauve color, try schizachyrium ‘Twilight Zone.’

Ornamental grasses have also become a viable alternative to water-loving varieties in the landscape. Some grasses actually look their best and perform better, once established, in dry land situations than in regularly watered landscapes, according to Chuck Pavlich of Terra Nova Nurseries.
Jeff Gibson of Ball Horticultural Co. adds that consumers are using more drought-tolerant grasses to replace traditional lawns. “This trend will spread nationally and should not be underestimated, even in places like the upper Midwest and the Great Lakes,” Gibson says.

Proven Winners’ Rick Schoellhorn sees potential for growers to create a niche for themselves by offering more grasses that take the shade, especially dry shade, because recent outbreaks of downy mildew in impatiens have created a gap in consumers’ shade selections, causing them to branch out and explore new landscape options.

Luzula sylvatica ‘Solar Flair’ is a great option for mixing with perennials in partial shade areas, while Milium effusum ‘ColorGrass Flashlights’ will brighten up any low-light area with its eye-catching chartreuse foliage.

And don’t forget native grasses. Peggy Anne Montgomery of American Beauties Native Plants says natives such as Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind,’ Sporobolus wrightii ‘Windbreaker’ and Muhlenbergia capillaris (Hairy Awn Muhly) increase biodiversity in the landscape and provide habitat for all sorts of wildlife.

Sedges — A Grass-Like Trend Gaining Momentum

Another landscape option that is not really a true grass, but still falls solidly in the ornamental grass category is sedges.

“A big trend in the grass world is the increased use of carex as native groundcovers to reduce the amount of mulching,” says Carrie Wiles of North Creek Nurseries. “They have excellent functionality in the landscape, address a number of landscape problems and are a great choice for low maintenance gardening and less watering.”

Wiles recommends Carex vulpinoidea and C. comosa for phytoremediation projects, stormwater management, erosion control and salt tolerance. Fox sedge is also deer resistant. C. pensylvanica is excellent as a groundcover in shady areas, as a background planting for shade-loving perennials or for soft texture in containers. For standout color, try carex ‘EverColor Everillo.’

Explore The Possibilities

By knowing which grasses work best in containers and those that are best suited to various landscape situations, growers can increase their market edge substantially. They need only explore the possibilities.

Topics:

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Outstanding Ornamental Grasses For Landscapes And Containers

  1. It’s nice to see more of the Native Grasses being offered and available….the Pennisetums here in Maine have a short life span and then die out horribly in the middle of the crown…Chasmanthium should have been on the list I’m increasingly learning how adaptable the plant is.

More From Varieties...
Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Arizona Apricot'

February 25, 2015

National Garden Bureau Designates 2015 As Year Of The Gaillardia

Gaillardia, also known as the blanket flower, is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) and a long-blooming pollinator plant. It is fitting that the National Garden Bureau has specified 2015 as The Year of the Gaillardia.

Read More
IPPS Sharing Plant Production Knowledge Globally Logo

February 25, 2015

International Plant Propagators Western Region Sets Annual Meeting Date

The annual meet for the International Plant Propagators' Society (IPPS) Western Region has been set for this September. It will take place September 23 to 26 in Modesto, Calif., and will include learning sessions, tours to local nurseries, a research poster display and poster presentations, various networking opportunities and an awards banquet to close the event.

Read More
Evolvulus Blue My Mind

February 24, 2015

Blue Ribbon Bloomers For Greenhouse Production

Grow what consumers want! Surveys show that blue is one of the top preferred colors of today’s consumers. Here are twelve top recommended blue-flowering Proven Winners annuals and perennials to suit your spring production cycle.

Read More
Latest Stories
Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Arizona Apricot'

February 25, 2015

National Garden Bureau Designates 2015 As Year Of The G…

Gaillardia, also known as the blanket flower, is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) and a long-blooming pollinator plant. It is fitting that the National Garden Bureau has specified 2015 as The Year of the Gaillardia.

Read More

February 18, 2015

California Spring Trials Sneak Peek: New Annuals For 20…

If you're like us and you can't wait until the 2015 California Spring Trials to see some of the new genetics that will be hitting the market in 2016, never fear. We contacted the breeders who will be displaying their new varieties in California in April, and they gave us a sneak peek. Check out our slideshow to see some of the new annuals making their debut to the trade this spring.

Read More
Athena Brazil Salvia 'Brazilian Purple'

February 18, 2015

ForemostCo And Athena Brazil Unite To Supply Unrooted P…

ForemostCo, Inc. and Athena Brazil have forged a working relationship to support each other in the unrooted perennial cuttings market for North America. The partnership, geared toward accommodating increasing demand for unrooted perennial cuttings in North America, adds diversity to a recently consolidated market.

Read More

February 17, 2015

Poinsettias Had Their Best Year In Many In 2014

Poinsettia growers report a strong year in 2014, thanks to a few conditions. Growers were encouraged by high plant quality, enthusiastic shoppers and a stronger, less saturated market for poinsettias throughout the selling season. Seasonal cold at just the right time put consumers in a festive mood to buy early and often, and with no big snowstorms to hold up shipments and a reduction of supply available in the market, the season was strong from start to finish.

Read More
Geranium x cantabrigiense 'Biokovo'

February 17, 2015

Geranium Hybrid ‘Biokovo’ Dubbed 2015 Peren…

Geranium xcantabrigiense ‘Biokovo,' a naturally occurring hybrid of G. dalmaticum and G. macrorrhizum, is the Perennial Plant Association's top pick for 2015 Perennial of the Year. Learn why this tough, landscape geranium took home the prize.

Read More
Costa Farms' Season Premier 2015

February 4, 2015

Costa Farms’ 2015 Season Premier Reveals Newest V…

The annual Season Premier at Costa Farms in Miami, Fla., is the industry's very first peek at new varieties for debut the following year, even before the California Spring Trials, heralded widely as the jumping off point for new varieties. This year's event revealed breeders' best and brightest new varieties for 2016, shown in field trials, landscape trials and containers at Costa Farms tropical trial gardens. Plant breeders presented their new varieties to buyers and members of Lowe’s grower panel. Growers, brokers and other allied industry members, including Home Depot growers and buyers, were also able to peruse the grounds to see how the new varieties fared in the winter trials. Later this season, the hot and humid conditions at Costa’s summer trials will help identify the true performers.

Read More

January 28, 2015

All-America Selections Introduces Additional 2015 Winne…

All-America Selections has announced more 2015 AAS Winners, bringing the grand total of introductions for the 2015 gardening year to 25. The seven winners join the 12 announced last November and six announced last July. This year, AAS has had the most winners in one year since 1939.

Read More

January 28, 2015

Holiday Plant Trends And New Varieties

Growers had mixed feelings about the 2014 poinsettia season according to Greenhouse Grower's 2014 Poinsettia Survey. Read about their plans for 2015 and stay up to date on 14 of the newest cyclamen and poinsettia varieties on the market.

Read More

January 21, 2015

Pantone Marsala Plants To Grow In 2015 [Slideshow]

Marsala, an earthy wine-red color, is the Pantone Color of the Year for 2015, and it presents a great marketing opportunity to showcase Marsala-colored plants for outdoor and indoor decorating. Enjoy this round-up of plants with Marsala hues.

Read More

January 14, 2015

Liven Up Indoor And Outdoor Living With 24 New Tropical…

Uniquely colored foliage and vivid blooms are just two of the great features new tropicals and foliage plants add to energize indoor and outdoor spaces.

Read More

January 13, 2015

Take Purdue University’s Survey On Vegetatively P…

Do you have problems callusing or rooting vegetatively propagated perennials? The Purdue University Floriculture Lab would like to help you with these problems, but first the research team there needs your help.

Read More
Poinsettia 'Charon Red'

January 6, 2015

Dan Schantz Farm 2014 Poinsettia Trial Recap And 2015 D…

The 2014 Dan Schantz Poinsettia trials featured more than 170 poinsettia varieties. Here's a summary of the event, as well as a 2015 date for your calendar.

Read More

December 31, 2014

Engage Busy Consumers With Modern-Day Tropical And Foli…

Contemporary tropical and foliage plants fit right in with the hustle and bustle of the twenty-first century. Their versatility lends itself to countless uses both inside the house and out on the patio.

Read More

December 30, 2014

2015 California Spring Trials Are Just Around The Corn…

Are the California Spring Trials on your schedule for 2015? Before the busy growing season sidelines your plans, use this handy resource to get a jumpstart on registering for your trip.

Read More

December 29, 2014

Top 5 Slideshows Of 2014

These popular slideshows from 2014 highlight everything from new perennials, to new veggies, to California Spring Trials.

Read More

December 29, 2014

Suntory Makes Spirits Bright With Princettia Displays

Suntory Flowers started to introduce its varieties to sister company Beam Suntory by collaborating on a holiday interiorscape featuring Princettia at Beam Suntory's offices in Deerfield, Ill., near Chicago.

Read More

December 17, 2014

Small-Size Plant Varieties For Small-Scale Gardens [Sli…

Miniature and dwarf-sized varieties are perfect for containers, small-scale outdoor gardens and miniature gardening. See what breeders and growers have to offer in new varieties and past favorites.

Read More

December 17, 2014

Plant Ratings From 2014 Trials Now Available In Plant T…

Now that North American trial grounds have completed their 2014 trialing season, the National Plant Trials Database has more than 15,000 plant ratings for the horticulture industry’s use in planning for 2015.

Read More