No branches to prune, no deadheading, no need to fertilize, and very few pests and disease issues—all in all, growing ornamental grass is a walk in the park.
Garden flowers seem to get all the hype, but ornamental grass has just as much visual impact on the landscape! These tall, wispy grasses bring fabulous textural contrast and movement to the scenery. They dance in the wind, come in a gorgeous spectrum of colors, and often produce feathery, tufted seed heads that provide food for wild birds. There are many reasons to love ornamental grass, and they offer several useful functions within the landscape.
Here’s Why Your Landscape Needs Ornamental Grass
Sure, they’re beautiful and all, but ornamental grass has so much more to offer than just good looks! You’ll be blown away by how these breezy, beautiful plants can dramatically improve your landscape.
They’re Low-Maintenance and Drought-Tolerant
Most ornamental grasses don’t require much supplemental watering once they’re established. No branches to prune, no deadheading, no need to fertilize, and very few pests and disease issues—all in all, growing ornamental grass is a walk in the park. If you wish to fertilize, use a balanced, slow-release fertilizer diluted to half-strength once in spring. Too much fertilizer can actually weaken ornamental grass!
You can use the height and volume of ornamental grass to your advantage in landscape designs. While we often use shrubs or trees for privacy around our property, many ornamental types of grass can reach up to 6 or 7 feet tall, offering just the right amount of coverage to create an attractive privacy screen.
Contrast and Balance for Mixed Arrangements
Whether you plant it in a big garden bed, throughout the landscape, or in a mixed container arrangement, ornamental grass can balance out the shape and proportions of your design. Tall varieties rise amongst low-growing flowers and plants, acting as a focal point that brings a little extra wow factor. Shorter, more compact ornamental grasses are great for filling in gaps between flashier flowers or as an alternative ground cover if you want less lawn.
Does your yard slope? Heavy rain, snow, and extreme weather conditions can contribute to soil erosion over time, and we’re no stranger to unpredictable weather here in Iowa. Ornamental grasses are perfect for growing along sloped terrain, offering better stability and resistance to damage from the elements.
The Best Perennial Ornamental Grasses for Iowa
Here are five sensational ornamental grasses that can be easily grown as perennials in Iowa landscapes.
The tall, upright foliage of this distinctive ornamental grass bears golden zebra stripes that run horizontally along every blade. It grows incredibly fast, reaches up to seven feet tall, and is hardy to zone 4. It thrives in full sun to partial shade and makes a great border hedge plant.
There are many fountain grass varieties—some are perennials, and others are annuals. Their foliage splays outward like a fountain, with fluffy heads resembling kitten tails. Hameln dwarf fountain grass is a nice small-sized variety that only reaches two feet tall, making it an excellent ground cover or filler plant. It’s hardy to zone 4 and turns a lovely honey brown shade in autumn.
Another variety with spectacular fall interest, flame grass lights up the landscape as its green foliage turns into blazing copper orange, with fluffy white seed heads floating above like wispy clouds. It likes full sun to partial shade and reaches four feet tall at maturity. Flame grass can tolerate poor soils and likes moderately moist soil—try not to let it dry out completely!
This stunner really steals the spotlight in autumn when its green foliage transitions to sunny gold, with deep red stems and sparkling silver seed heads that sit atop feathery plumes. It’s hardy to zone 3, reaches 4–5 feet tall at maturity, and grows best in full sun or partial shade.
This ornamental grass prefers more moist environments than the others on this list, so if you’ve got a pond or live near a waterway, plant some Karl Foerster in your landscape. It’s hardy to zone 3, loves full sun, and can tolerate poor soil. Karl Foerster grass reaches up to five feet tall, with vivid green, slender leaves, and wheat-like plumes.
Discover even more Iowa ornamental grasses by visiting Wallace’s Garden Center! Whether you’re looking for annuals or perennials, we have so many gorgeous varieties for you to add to your landscape.