Ornamental Grasses

This interesting group of landscape plants are finally being seen and enjoyed in Alberta gardens.


annual flower



Ornamental grasses are grown for their colorful or striped foliage and showy seed heads. Grasses look their best when integrated into the mixed border along with perennials, annuals, shrubs and evergreens. Low maintenance designs may rely on ornamental grasses to provide their backbone.


Cool season grasses begin their growth in early spring, reaching their full size before summer heat hits. Several types remain evergreen in mild winter areas. Divide these in late summer or early spring.


Listed below are some of the more popular ornamental grasses. greengate carries many varieties during the spring / summer season that can be found in the perennial area of the greenhouse.


Blue Fescue (festuca ovina glauca)

  • Cool season, ht. and spread to 1 ft., hardiness zone 3.
  • Clumps of fine blue grass; good color contrast plant. Likes sun.
  • Elijah Blue and Skinner's Blue varieties are available.


Blue Lyme Grass (elymus glaucus/racemosus)

  • Warm-season, ht. and spread to 3 ft., hardiness zone 3.
  • Outstanding bright blue foliage color. Fast spreading clumps are aggressively invasive.
  • Tan colored flower spikes appear in summer. Bloom time: July - August.

Blue Oat Grass (helictotrichon sempervirens)

  • Cool-season, ht. and spread 2-3 ft., hardiness zone 4.
  • Perfect rounded clumps of intensely blue leaves. This non-spreader is the best blue grass for general purpose border use. Tan spikes appear above on graceful arching stems. Evergreen.


Brome Grass (bromus inermis)

  • Cool-season, ht. and spread 2-3 ft., hardiness zone 1.
  • Gold and green striped leaves make this a bright feature in the landscape. A fast-spreader, best used on slopes or other difficult sites. Remove any sections that turn plain green. Benefits from a mid-summer trim.


Ulbous Oat Grass (arrhenatherum elatius bulbosum)

  • Cool-season, ht. and spread to 1 ft., hardiness zone 2.
  • Bushy, low clumps of cream and green striped leaves. Tan color spikes in spring. Combines well with spring bulbs. Drought tolerant when established.


Dwarf or Miniature Cattail (typha minima)

  • Ht. and spread to 1 ft., hardiness zone 4.
  • Prefers wet or moist soil. Miniature version of our native Cattail. Dark brown, short flower spikes appear in summer and are suitable for cutting. Bloom time: June July.


Hair Grass (deschampsia caespitosa)

  • Cool-season, ht. to 3 ft., spread to 15 in., hardiness zone 4.
  • Clump-forming evergreen grass. Tufts of delicate flowers appear in early summer, gradually turning darker. Mass plant for best effect. Bloom time: May - August.


Red Switch Grass (panicum virgatum)

  • Warm-season, ht. and spread to 3 ft., hardiness zone 3.
  • Airy clouds of flowers turn into red seed heads. Outstanding orange fall foliage color. Bloom time: July - August.


Ribbon Grass (phalaris arundinacea) hardiness zone 2

  • Cool-season. - Fast spreading clumps of striped leaves; invasive; variegated varieties require sunlight for coloration. Good ground cover yet too aggressive for border or rockery.
  • 'Picta' (Gardener's Garters) - green and cream stripes. Ht 3 ft.
  • 'Rosea' (Feesey Form)- tricolor pink, cream and green stripes. Ht 2 ft.


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