Why Ornamental Grasses Are Great For People In Condos And Apartments

Schizacharium Standing Ovation (North Creek)
Schizachyrium ‘Standing Ovation’ maintains a tight, upright habit through the season and has bright, fiery-colored foliage in the fall.

When ornamental grasses debuted many years ago, they were seen as the greatest thing since sliced bread, especially for landscapers and designers. Easy to grow and attractive plants, they’re low maintenance and offer summer color and winter value. They have since become an important component of landscape and garden sales.

However, as gardens have become smaller, ornamental grasses, for the most part, are still bold and bodacious.

We Need To Promote Grasses For Small Spaces

In short, the dwarfing of annuals, perennials, and shrubs has not been as widely accepted in ornamental grasses. Breeders need to do a better job of making growers, brokers, and garden centers aware of better cultivars for the increasingly shrinking garden space.

It is hard enough to get people with lawns and gardens outside their back doors to garden. It is doubly difficult to talk plants to someone on the 10th floor of an apartment building. They have no idea where to start, and low maintenance (read little water) and color is all they want. Let’s help them out.

Grass growers, please include patio/balcony/veranda grasses in your availability list. There is a good number out there; they simply need a separate line item to remind garden centers of their versatility.

Small-Space Grass Options That Look Great In Containers

Here are a few I recommend: All can be grown on their own or as part of combination containers.

Pennisetum Fireworks
Unlike the species, Pennisetum ‘Fireworks’ does not reseed. Variegated stripes of white, green, burgundy, and hot pink run the length of its blades, and purple tassels appear in the summer.

1. Little blue stem (Schizachyrium spp.): In general, all handle verandas and patios well. The best known are ‘The Blues,‘ with handsome blue foliage, and ‘Blaze,’ for good fall color. My favorite, however, is ‘Standing Ovation.’ Zones 3 to 9.

2. Carex: The sedges are gaining more popularity as growers, landscapers, and gardeners recognize their utility. ‘Ice Ballet,’ ‘Ice Dance,’ and ‘Evergold’ all have excellent variegated foliage. For exceptional color, try ‘Everillo’ with its outstanding chartreuse foliage. Zones 6(5) to 9.

3. Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium spp.) has a well-deserved reputation as a reseeder; however, in a container on the veranda, this is no longer an issue. The vigorous growth and the handsome seed heads, are magic 10 stories up. Zones 5 to 9.

4. Gamma grass (Bouteloua spp.) has been around for years, but it was thought of as a green meadow thing — useful, but not particularly eye catching. The introduction of ‘Blonde Ambition’ changed everything. Handsome foliage and cool seed heads make the extra price for retailers worth every penny. Zones 4 to 9.

Carex Evergold
Carex ‘Evergold’ is a deer-resistant sedge with striking, variegated yellow and green foliage.

5. Feather grass (Nassella spp.) is another grass that has not hit the circuit as hard as it should. The flowers are so feathery, you want to put your head down in them. Feather grass is easy to grow and easy to sell in flower. Zones 7(6) to 9.

6. Purple fountain grass (Pennisetum spp.) has always been a favorite. Good old ‘Rubrum’ is still excellent, but for me ‘Fireworks’ is hard to beat. Although, the more I see ‘Cherry Sparkler,’ the more inclined I am to recommend it. Zones 8 to 11.

There are half a dozen more ornamental grasses that fit on balconies, such as quaking grass (Briza spp.), blue lyme grass (Elymus spp.), the rushes (Juncus spp.), and annuals like bunny tails (Lagurus spp.). The point of this column is actually not for me to recommend anything, other than to give those who don’t have dirt outside their window a chance to join us — with some special plants — the grasses.

Topics: , ,

Leave a Reply

More From Armitage On Plants...

April 19, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: New Intros from Syngenta Flowers, Hishtil, Jaldety, Cohen Propagators, Bailey Nurseries, and More

Check out the newest 2018 plant introductions from Syngenta Flowers, Hishtil, Jaldety, Cohen Propagators, Nir Nursery, Bailey Nurseries, and Sunset Western/Southern Living Plants.

Read More

April 19, 2018

CAST 2018: Dr. A’s Favorites From Syngenta Flowers, Bailey Nurseries, and More

From an exciting perennial to a new white begonia, Allan Armitage says these showstoppers deserve recognition.

Read More

April 19, 2018

Spring Trials Rookie Inspired by Connections

The Allan Armitage Scholarship recipient has added a number of industry connections during his time at California Spring Trials, and discusses what that means to him and his career.

Read More
Latest Stories

April 19, 2018

CAST 2018: Dr. A’s Favorites From Syngenta Flowers, Bai…

From an exciting perennial to a new white begonia, Allan Armitage says these showstoppers deserve recognition.

Read More

April 18, 2018

Dr. A Weighs in on His CAST Favorites From American Tak…

Here are some of the top variety introductions for 2019 that have pleased Dr. A during California Spring Trials 2018.

Read More

April 17, 2018

Allan Armitage’s Noteworthy 2018 Plant Intros fro…

Here are some of the top variety introductions for 2019 that have pleased Dr. A during California Spring Trials 2018.

Read More

April 16, 2018

Allan Armitage’s Spring Trials Favorites From Green Fus…

Here are some of the top variety introductions for 2019 that have pleased Dr. A during California Spring Trials 2018.

Read More

March 29, 2018

Allan Armitage Revisits the Native Plant Movement And I…

With breeders adding dozens of nativars and with public opinion so high, many more perennials, trees, and shrubs are natives/nativars than there were 14 years ago.

Read More

March 6, 2018

Allan Armitage: Columnist, Author, Professor … Te…

Dr. Allan Armitage is well-known in the horticulture industry for his passion for plants. That passion also applies to tennis, as evidenced by his tennis team’s run to a national championship.

Read More
Helleborus Frostkiss Penny's Pink

February 24, 2018

Allan Armitage on Hot New Perennials for 2018

Here are some of the perennials Armitage thinks may increase in value in 2018.

Read More

January 26, 2018

Allan Armitage: A Closer Look at New Annuals for 2018

Petunias, marigolds, pansies, lantanas, and zinnias will always be needed, but here are some other annuals I think may increase sales.

Read More

January 6, 2018

Why Growers Should Not Market Their Plants, But the Sol…

In his latest column, Allan Armitage says landscapers, designers, and gardeners want solutions to problems, not simply a recommendation for one more handsome plant.

Read More

December 3, 2017

Great Plants for 2018 That Stand Up to Heat and Humidit…

In his latest column, Allan Armitage credits trial managers at the University of Georgia, who have come up with an extensive list of plants that continually outperform others throughout the season.

Read More
Allan Armitage San Marzano tomato plant feature

October 26, 2017

Allan Armitage: Why Simplicity Rules for Younger Homeow…

Most starter gardeners are not looking to buy the ingredients to make a combination planter or basket. They want it made for them — no muss, no fuss.

Read More
Allan Armitage Of Naked Ladies and Forget Me Nots

October 2, 2017

Hear Classic Plant Stories From Allan Armitage in an Up…

Greenhouse Grower’s resident Contributing Editor and “Dr. A. Unchained” scribe Allan Armitage will be the guest speaker on gardening author and speaker Kerry Ann Mendez’s national gardening Webinar series.

Read More
Armitage GWA Buffalo Tour 5

September 21, 2017

Tour of Buffalo Gardens Reveals Hidden Gems And Communi…

This past August, Allan Armitage joined the Association for Garden Communicators on a tour of Buffalo. It was a reminder that that we can make a difference in neighborhoods, in cities, and in people’s lives.

Read More
Bidens Popstar (Kientzler)

August 31, 2017

Allan Armitage: Why I’ve Become a Fan of Bidens

The rather boring plant with mundane daisy-yellow flowers has morphed into a vigorous plant carrying colorful flowers that seems to be comfortable in most of the country.

Read More
Van Wilgens Garden Center Customer Appreciation Day

July 26, 2017

Allan Armitage: How Interacting With Your Customers Can…

Plants are our common denominator, but trust and positive interaction with our customers and each other is truly what keeps us in the plant business.

Read More
Allan Armitage Citizenship

June 26, 2017

Allan Armitage Describes His Path to Citizenship

In between offering his take on new varieties and gardening trends, Allan Armitage and his wife Susan recently became proud citizens of the U.S.

Read More
Tyler Beasley and Allan Armitage

May 25, 2017

Allan Armitage: Two Great Examples of Young People Movi…

In his latest column, Allan Armitage says perhaps we should, as an industry, extend our hands to our youngest members. We might be pleasantly surprised what happens.

Read More
Allan Armitage Of Naked Ladies and Forget Me Nots

May 2, 2017

Allan Armitage: How Growers Can Be Creative to Take Gar…

Our industry does a good job of making things convenient for our customers. It’s time to take it a step further.

Read More