Try different grasses to add interest to landscape

Published on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 22:38 - Written by Dee Bishop, In Our Garden

Being a prairie state, Texas has always had many kinds of grasses. People have only in late years be-gun to appreciate what grasses can add to a landscape.

The 1990s brought grasses into Texas yards as the beautiful landscape additions they really are. Since then, dozens have been presented to us by the nursery trade. Once you could only get the huge 5- to 6-foot-tall tall and wide grasses, and even larger grasses if you include the gigantic pampas grass.

Take a look at this beautiful Miscanthus grass that we have in the IDEA Garden. Even in winter, the soft curling seed heads bring interest to otherwise bleak landscapes.

Miscanthus grasses are some of our favorites. They seldom seed out like the equally lovely but sometimes weedy Pennisetum (fountain grass). Miscanthus grass comes in all sizes from 5- to 6-feet-tall silver grass down to 12-inch-tall Little Kitten and all in between.

We love the beautifully variegated foliage all summer as well as the softly curling “hands” of the blooms fall through winter. It is fun to listen to the rustling sound the dried grass makes during windy weather in fall and winter.

Another very important, but sometimes overlooked, feature of having grasses is they provide much needed shelter for birds and other small critters during cold winter nights. Always leave the dried foliage until mid February for the little guys as well as for structure in your garden. About mid-February, cut the old foliage back to the ground so the new spring growth can begin. Lay that foliage around for birds to use in nest-building.

Miscanthus grass needs a lot of sun. Too much shade will make it flop, as will soil that is too fertile. Good drainage, sunshine and plenty of room is needed for the grass to grow into its beautiful fountain shape.

There are many varieties from which to choose. Look at M. Morning Light, Cabaret, Adagio, Yaku Jima and the beautiful Zebra grasses as well. There is a perfect size, shape and color for every landscape. They even grow in large pots if you have a sunny deck or balcony.


Dee Bishop is a Smith County Master Gardener. She writes about plants growing within the Tyler Rose Garden.