Ornamental grasses add texture to yards
I recently visited the Magnolia Botanical Garden at the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Verona, and I saw some impressive ornamental grasses at this Mississippi State University location.
Ornamental grasses are great landscape choices and can add color and interesting texture to any garden.
I loved the zebra grass, a clump-forming variety noted for its zebra-striped foliage. Its long, linear leaves grow up to 8 feet tall and are flexible, allowing it to blow easily in the wind. This makes the landscape come alive. The leaf blades are green with irregularly spaced, yellow, horizontal bands.
Zebra grass is frequently used in the landscape as a specimen or screen, but it can also be planted in groups to form a nice mass of fine-textured foliage. It adds elegance and texture when mass-planted in a large landscape, such as around a commercial building.
Zebra grass does well in our long, hot growing season in the South. Make sure the location you choose gives it the full sun it needs. It adapts to most well-drained soils and is quite drought-tolerant, too.
When flowers appear in early fall, they form pinkish-copper plumes. As the seeds mature, they become fluffy and are a great accent to the tan winter foliage. These 8- to 10-inch-long plumes persist into the winter.
In the spring, cut the grass back to the ground so new green growth is not covered by last year’s dried, brown foliage.
One of my all-time favorites is Gulf muhly grass. This native plant is showy in the fall and winter months. In the fall, it produces billowy masses called inflorescences, which resemble pink clouds in the landscape.
Select a landscape site for muhly grass that receives at least six hours of full sun during the day. Consider spacing needs, as these plants can grow up to 3 feet tall and wide.
Another eye-catching grass I saw in the Magnolia Botanical Gardens that I want to add to my landscape is Strawberries and Cream ribbon grass. This ornamental grass has long green-and-white-striped blades that cast a delicate rosy hue and offer three seasons of color.
Strawberries and Cream ribbon grass is not too picky about sun or soil conditions, making it a great choice for those hard-to-plant places. Just make sure to keep your eye on it, as its spreading habit fills out areas nicely but can crowd out other plants if not kept in check. As a perennial, this plant usually dies back to the crown each winter and regrows from the base each spring.
Strawberries and Cream ribbon grass is also a good selection for planting in outdoor pots and containers. With its upright growth habit, it is best as a thriller in the “spiller-thriller-filler” container combination. Plant it near the center of the pot, surrounded by smaller plants and those that spill over the edges. It is even sizeable enough that you can grow it alone in a suitable container.
Ornamental grasses can make a beautiful addition to your landscape, so consider them when looking for a new plant to add interest.