Ornamental Grasses for Fall

Grasses-MainOrnamental grasses are indispensible tools for designers and landscapers. They add form to a garden, as well as color and texture. Grasses can be used to hide or soften hard elements like buildings or pipes, to define edges or different areas of the border, or even as a hedge. Some people choose ornamental grasses simply to cut down on mowing—that’s ok, too. Remember that they’re foliage plants so they provide multiple seasons of interest, which is always a plus in our book, and they sway in the breeze, adding movement to the landscape as well. We have a variety of colors that will complement autumn décor nicely.

Pennisetum ‘Vertigo’


This big, tall grass has spiky purple-black foliage that never fades. Graceful and exotic, it grows about 3 feet tall and is a commanding presence in the garden. It’s a reliable performer throughout the summer and fall; after the first frost it will start to turn brown but the dried leaves and seed heads will continue to provide winter interest.

Plant ‘Vertigo’ in full sun. It tolerates a wide range of soils and will spread about 2–3 feet. Be careful where you place this variety because it will quickly fill in a space. Aside from that, plants are heat tolerant with no deadheading required, so they’re fairly low-maintenance.


Use this upright grass as a specimen in the landscape—the dark leaves are stunning. Plant several in a row or on a slope for an eye-catching hedge effect; it’s great for adding drama to large containers as well. ‘Vertigo’ is available in the 1-gallon pot.

Carex ‘Red Rooster’


Commonly known as leatherleaf sedge, ‘Red Rooster’ has bronze-red foliage that keeps its color all year. Leaves here are long and slender, forming an upright, fanned out clump; they grow stiff and dense, and will arch over eventually, resembling a fountain. Due to the light brown tone of the foliage this grass has a charming dried appearance even though it’s actively growing.

Full sun to partial shade is best, and ‘Red Rooster’ tolerates most soils, including wet ones; it actually makes a good bog plant. You’ll find that it’s another low-maintenance selection, performing well in both heat and drought. Plants grow lush and drape, reaching about 2 feet high with a spread of about 1-1/2 to 2 feet.


We use this selection to add fine texture to the landscape. It combines nicely with brightly colored autumn accents in a mixed border and provides contrast with greener foliage plants. Edging is another area where ‘Red Rooster’ is effective, particularly near a pond or water garden. En masse it creates a unique groundcover; alone in a basket or large container it makes an intriguing specimen. We are shipping this variety in the 4.5-inch pot.

Juncus ‘Blue Arrows’


Grown for its beautiful blue-green foliage, this European meadow rush has a stiff, upright habit. When the frost comes, some of the leaves will turn light brown; however, if the weather doesn’t get extremely cold the plant will keep a fair amount of its green color. The foliage on this selection remains dense all the way to the ground.

‘Blue Arrows’ prefers full sun to partial shade. It will thrive in the heat and adapts to most soils—it can even be grown in up to 4 inches of standing water. While this grass is often grown as a pond plant, it thrives in the heat and is actually fairly drought tolerant once established. It grows about 3 feet tall with a spread of about a foot and is reasonably low-maintenance.


Whether at the edge of a stream or in a mixed border, ‘Blue Arrows’ brings fine texture and an air of elegance to the landscape or inner city garden. Its upright form adds plenty of vertical interest to beds and containers and the soft blue-green foliage mixes well with many bright autumn décor selections. This grass is available now in the 4.5-inch and 1-gallon size pots.

Our other grasses are also available in 1-gallon pots to add garden interest throughout the fall:

  • Juncus ‘Twisted Dart’: short, compact, curly blue-green foliage—great for hanging baskets
  • Cyperus ‘King Tut’: very tall, very straight stems are topped with narrow, arching green ribbons resembling sparklers or umbrellas; suitable as a pond plant
  • Cyperus ‘Baby Tut’: a shorter version of ‘King Tut’
  • Pennisetum ‘Rubrum’ (Purple Fountain) (Annual): arching burgundy-red leaves with burgundy-purple bottlebrush flowers give the appearance of a fountain; 3–4 feet tall
  • Juncus spiralis: dark green foliage is twisted, curly and upright; grows about a foot tall
  • Pennisetum ‘Princess’: purple foliage grows 2–3 feet tall and is very heat-tolerant