Have you thought about ornamental grass for your space? Whether you're looking for a statement plant to add some airy elegance to your garden or a spiky, structural number to add a little drama to your borders, ornamental grasses tick all the boxes. There is also an untapped air of whimsicality to this outdoor plant, which we are happy to explore. If you want to keep your garden bang up-to-date on style and design, they're worth introducing to your outdoor space.
If you're keen on these outdoor ornamental grass plants, we recommend planting them in autumn or making them an addition to your springtime garden. Ornamental grasses are grown primarily for their aesthetic appeal in gardens, landscapes, and ornamental plantings. These grasses are prized for their graceful, flowing foliage, and in many cases, their striking seed heads that add texture, movement, and visual interest to outdoor spaces. They are a great plant for birds, providing habitat and food. They feed on the seeds of grasses and nest in the dense growth below.
To tidy up your grass after winter, comb through it with a gloved hand or fork in early spring to remove dead leaves. If you need to keep the soil well-drained but moist in summer, dig in compost or use a soil improver or conditioner. Remember: feed ornamental grass with a controlled-release fertiliser to encourage growth and add a generous layer of compost or mulch around the plant in autumn. We recommend adding a water-retention gel or a rich compost.
Best ornamental grass at a glance
• Pink and silver flowers: Foxtail Barley - View Offer on Amazon UK
• Silky, cream-white flowers: Pampas Grass - View Offer at Gardening Express
• Ideal for beds and tubs: Lagurus ovatus 'Bunny's Tails Grass' - View Offer at Sarah Raven
There is a huge variety of ornamental grasses to choose from but fortunately, most are hardy, virtually carefree, and beautifully textured in their own unique ways. Perfect for pots, landscape design, and adding dynamic depth to your beds, we've brought together a list of the best ornamental grasses for your garden, as well as some planting ideas and care tips to help your grass thrive. You could even use this ornamental plant for privacy, which we all need...
Best ornamental grass for your garden
Wispy, pale and compact
'Stipa tenuissima' or Mexican Feather Grass always features heavily in gardens at summer flower
- Fine, billowing, thread-like foliage
- Fluffy, buff-coloured flowerheads
- Tactile, deciduous grass
- Flowers only in May
Pink and silver flowers
'Hordeum jubatum' or Foxtail Barley is short-lived but it will self-seed to grow new plants. Give
- A large swathe of pink flowers
- Easy to grow from seeds and will self-seed
- No reported toxicity to pets
- Short-lived but will self-seed
Grey-blue fades to brown
Grown for its stiff, architectural blue foliage, the Festuca Glauca (or Blue Fescue) is a useful
- Stiff, architectural blue foliage
- Useful evergreen grass for year-round interest
- Short, blue-green flower spikes
4. Pampas Grass
Silky, cream-white flowers
With huge, graceful feathery heads of silky cream-white flowers, this majestic ornamental Pampas
- Looks great blended with shrubs and grasses
- Resistant to drought and freezing temperatures
- Superb grass for late summer and autumn effect
- May be too big for some spaces
A contemporary look
The upright blades of Japanese Blood Grass (or 'Imperata cylindrica Rubra') are green at the base
- Resilient, easy-to-grow plants
- Stunning, spiky grass
- Add contrast to your flower beds
- No customer reviews
Adds a sculptural edge
This Chasmanthium Latifolium originates from North America where it's also known as northern sea
- Lovely cascading over a path
- Could fare well arranged in a vase
- Delicate upper-storey perennial grass
- Some customers didn't have any luck
Resembles a squirrel tail
'Pennisetum alopecuroides' or Chinese Fountain Grass has long, arching, slender, green leaves and
- Highly decorative ornamental grass
- Almost all year-round interest in the garden
- A low-maintenance plant
- Few customers reported poor condition
Keep this cosy through winter
We can't get enough of this fluffy Pennisetum villosum with flowers of whitish-green that take on
- Greeny-white, wheat-like flowers
- This grass usually self-seeds
- Loosely tufted bunch in spring
- Requires extra maintenance through winter
Whimsical, cottage feel
'Eriophorum scheuchzeri' gets its common name (White Cotton Grass) because of the fluffy, white
- Slender, grass-like leaves
- Forms a spreading clump
- Fluffy-looking spikelets
- No customer reviews
Perfect for gravel gardens
Planted in large drifts at the edge of a path or beneath trees, this slow-growing Hakonechloa
- Clump forming grass
- Perfect for sun or shade
- Ideal for containers or in gravel gardens
- Some customers have had some issues with quality
11. Stipa gigantea
Slender leaves sit atop towering stems, creating quite an impression. Plant the Stipa gigantea
- Glistening, golden, oat-like flowerheads
- Majestic semi-evergreen grass
- Perfect for a mixed, sunny border
- One or two customers feel that the results were poor
Ideal for beds and tubs
'Lagurus ovatus' is so cute and looks exactly like its name describes: plump little balls on
- Perfect for edging, beds and tubs
- Delightful touchable flower heads
- Ideal for smaller outdoor spaces
- Needs to be well-drained and in full sun
Stripy, unusual leaves
Just look at these stripy leaves! This variegation is temperature-dependent so plant it in light
- Grows nice and tall for privacy
- Graceful, fountainous grass
- Silky, finger-like flower spikes
- Typically do not survive winter
Ornamental Grass Care Buys
Best plant food for ornamental grass
Feeding plants for up to 6 months, removing the need for regular feeding, the Miracle-Gro All
- Best for beds, borders, pots, containers and hanging baskets
- For all types of plants and suitable for fruit and vegetables
- Releases nutrients only when conditions are right for feeding
- Some customers report damaged packaging
Best planters for ornamental grass
This vidaXL Bamboo Raised Bed Pots (Pack of 3) with nylon lining will be an ideal choice for your
- Comes in three different sizes
- Eye-catcher for your garden
- Waterproof and sustainable bamboo
- May not suit all species
Best compost for ornamental grass
For planting, we recommend the Westland John Innes No 3 Mature Plant Compost, which nurtures and
- Rich in nutrients for hungry plants
- Stable loam-based blend
- Feeds for up to four months
- Some customers were unsure of the size
Best water retention gel
Slow-release moisture control for pots, containers and hanging baskets, this Westland Water
- For use with containers and baskets
- One application lasts a full season
- Prevents pots and baskets from drying out
- Some customers are unsure if it works
Best fertiliser for ornamental grass
The envii Activearth Organic Soil Conditioner Improver is for use in no-dig gardening, vegetable
- Provides nutrients to enhance soil biology
- Breaks down organic matter to improve soil
- Safe for all pets and wildlife
- Some customers are sceptical if it will work
Best for compact ornamental grass
Add height and structure to the garden with this unique Sphere Planter with Stand from Waitrose
- Attractive textured aluminium
- Protective powder coat & lacquer
- Rigid tripod stand
- No customer reviews
Durable, weather-resistant planters
Make your garden modern and stylish for your garden, patio, decking or courtyard with this Beehive
- Durable, tough UV-stabilised and weather-resistant
- Perfect for indoor and outdoor use, with no drainage holes.
- Traditional antique bronze effect
- No customer reviews
What types are there?
There are numerous species and varieties of ornamental grasses, coming in various growth habits, including clumping, spreading, and trailing forms. Some are evergreen, while others are deciduous, meaning they lose their foliage in the winter. If you were keen on learning more, we've listed some common types of ornamental grass:
Fountain Grass (Pennisetum): Known for its arching, fountain-like growth habit, fountain grasses are popular for their fluffy, bottlebrush-like flower spikes.
Japanese Silver Grass (Miscanthus): These grasses are known for their tall, upright growth and feathery plumes that can be quite showy.
Switchgrass (Panicum): Switchgrass is a native North American grass that offers a range of cultivars with different heights and foliage colours.
Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis): This grass features upright, narrow foliage and feathery plumes, making it a popular choice for formal gardens.
Blue Fescue (Festuca glauca): A smaller ornamental grass with striking blue-grey foliage.
Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis): Tall and graceful, these grasses are prized for their silky plumes and colourful fall foliage.
Ornamental grass planting ideas
Match with hardy geraniums and Siberian bugloss for the ultimate low-maintenance showstopper patio pot.
Plant into a trio of small patio pots to pretty up and punctuate your paving or decking.
Plant in a row to use as a garden screen from neighbours, to divide up your garden, or to frame a seating area.
Because of its cascading shape, ornamental grasses such as the Mexican feather grass look gorgeous in a wide shallow bowl.
Use as the perfect backdrop to show off garden sculptures, especially with grasses with fluffy heads that’ll gently sway in the slightest breeze. They’ll provide a beautiful contrast to straight lines and spheres.
Cut and dry some of the seedheads in autumn for indoor arrangements or leave them where they are to feed finches and other seed-eating garden birds.
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Piper Huxley is a Homes, Garden and Wellness Product Writer for Modern Gardens Magazine, an all-rounder. When she’s not writing about houseplants, she’s tending to her own growing collection…