Ornamental Grasses are some of the most important — and often underappreciated — features of any landscape, whether it be a native meadow or a formal perennial garden. These grasses provide height, structure, and year-long interest in the landscape and are an absolute ease to grow. What’s more, for many of us with long, snowy winters — they’re often the only glimpse of our once-green garden we get during the colder months.
Ornamental Grasses in Winter: Best Varieties
There are some varieties that look more dazzling than others with a bit of frost or snow on their tips. Some of our favorite varieties for winter interest are:
This monumental grass can reach heights of up to 10’ and creates easy, year-long privacy with tall stems and showy plumes. The fluffy plumes look fantastic with a dusting of frost or snow and these grasses keep their fullness and structure throughout the entirety of the winter months.
Miscanthus is a versatile grass that turns from a silvery green in the warmer months to a rich, dramatic burgundy come winter. This favorite of birds offers up shelter and habitat during the winter months and looks effortlessly elegant in snow and ice.
Feather Reed Grass.
Feather Reed Grass (of which Karl Foerster is the most widely known) grows to be up to 6’ tall and is a strong vertical grower, making it another great option for privacy planting. The feathery bronze plumes keep their color throughout the colder months and add interest to the landscape by swaying in the winter breeze.
Hardy Pampas Grass, or Ravenna Grass, makes an excellent specimen plant all year. Airy white plumes form in mid-summer over green foliage. In autumn, leaves turn to bronze then red, adding a layer of color and visual interest. Plant can reach up to 12 feet tall, perfect for creating living fences or adding privacy to the landscape. This cold-hardy, quick-growing grass can help stabilize soil and prevent erosion. (Saccharum ravennae)
'Hameln' Fountain Grass is a smaller variety with three distinctive seasons of stunning displays in full sun or part shade gardens. First, fine-textured green grass blades up to 3 feet tall are tipped with soft, wheat-shaped seed heads. Foliage turns rust gold in autumn, and finally, pale blonde in winter. 'Hameln' is a favorite for birds and resists hungry deer. A great match for late-season perennials and colorful shrubs in the mixed border, as well as cut or dried flower arrangements. (Pennisetum alopecuroides)
'Elijah Blue' Fescue Grass is one of the most popular, no fuss ornamental grasses. Low growing in tight mounds with fine silvery blue-green foliage, plant 'Elijah Blue' in borders, rock gardens, or as groundcover to create year-round visual interest in the garden. In late spring and early summer, blonde seed heads appear on tall stems. Compact forms are great for small gardens and containers, and wont overtake its companions in the garden. (Festuca glauca)
'Red Head' Fountain Grass stands out as one of the earliest-flowering fountain grasses. 'Red Head' dazzles with bottlebrush plumes that emerge burgundy red in mid-to-late summer. Soft, fuzzy plumes shift to a silvery hue in fall and remain in place throughout winter. Flowing, ribbon-like grass blades adds texture and motion throughout the seasons, with leaves taking on yellow highlights in autumn. An excellent cut flower, fresh or dried. (Pennisetum alopecuriodes)