'Blackhawks' Big Bluestem is a beautiful Andropogon selection from Brent Horvath of Intrinsic Perennial Gardens. The 4' stems emerge with green blades in spring, but the foliage takes on shades of deep purple in mid summer. The turkey foot inflorescences appear in August and turn into airy, light catching seedheads for added fall and winter beauty. Andropogon gerardii 'Blackhawks' got its name from its origins in Illinois (Chicago Blackhawks), and it thrives in prairie like conditions.
'Red October' Big Bluestem is an exciting color breakthrough for this tough native grass. The leaves are tipped with burgundy and held on tall upright green stems in summer. The fall the foliage turns a bright scarlet red for several weeks after the first frost. 'Red October' also has red turkey-foot-shaped seed, particularly showy when backlit. The sturdy upright stems are an attractive tan in winter. An important food source for winter birds. Introduced by Intrinsic Perennials.
PRN Preferred: Spring foliage emerges with reddish highlights, strong red fall color.
‘Black Mountain’ Bluestem is a tough native grass which was found on Black Mountain, North Carolina by Terry Dalton of the North Carolina Arboretum. He chose it from his family’s wild meadow because of its compact stature and attractive blue green foliage. Andropogon ‘Black Mountain’ is showy in the fall when the stems take on reddish hues and the silvery inflorescences catch the light. ‘Black Mountain’ is happiest if left alone, so do not fertilize or irrigate once it is established.
Broom-sedge or Beardgrass is a tough native grass that adds great beauty to sterile, dry meadows and open fields. The green upright stems take on shades of reddish-burgundy in September, as they are coming into flower. The seedheads are an airy silver displayed all along the grass stems, and are particularly stunning when backlit by afternoon light. The fall and winter color of the strong upright stems is a bright orange tan.
'Blonde Ambition' Blue Grama is a lovely low maintenance native grass which has unusually shaped inflorescences. The orange to straw colored flowers are held horizontally off the stems, so that they look like tiny feathers. This is especially lovely when back lit by afternoon sun. When planted in mass, Bouteloua 'Blonde Ambition' can serve as an infrequently mowed lawn, since it does best in full sun. It was introduced by David Salman of High Country Gardens, and brought to our attention by Steve Castorani of North Creek Nurseries.
PRN Preferred: A fun whimsy appeal, what other grass has horizontal seedhead that last well into the winter?
Korean Feather Reed Grass has beautiful airy pinkish inflorescences in September, above strong green foliage. It is shade and moist site tolerant and blooms much later than other Feather Reed Grasses.
PRN Preferred: Unsurpassed inflorescenses in the shade, combines with other perennials in mass for a striking impact.
Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster' has tan seedheads, is early blooming and has an upright habit; it starts blooming in mid June. A 2001 Perennial Plant of the Year, 'Karl Foerster' Feather Reed Grass was named after our friend Tim Foerster's cousin, the great German nurseryman. Winter foliage is a pale tan, and 'Karl Foerster' shows excellent salt tolerance. Karl Foerster found this lovely spontaneous cross at the Hamburg Botanical Gardens.
'Overdam' Feather Reed Grass has green and white foliage and tan upright inflorescences. Thriving in both sun and shade, this is one of our favorite grasses. Winter color is a whitish tan.
Appalachian Sedge is a fine-textured green clump-forming Carex that performs really well in very shady dry woodlands. The habit is arching, like a green fountain, so Appalachian Sedge is particularly attractive in mixed shade containers.
Cherokee Sedge is an increasingly rare native that tolerates a wide range of conditions throughout the Southeast. The fine green foliage is fountain-like in habit, and the clumps slowly widen to make a natural looking groundcover. It tolerates dry conditions but is happiest in moist sites. Since it is deer resistant as well as at home in both sun and shade, this Carex deserves more usage. Avoid hard cutback.
Carex divulsa or Grassland Sedge has fine green arching leaves emerging gracefully from the central clumps. Carex divulsa makes an attractive substitute for grass in areas where there is tree cover, and spreads to make a neat green groundcover in areas of sun or shade. It is evergreen in warmer winters, and low maintenance at all times. The small interesting flower stalks or culms emerge from the foliage in April, turning bronze as they mature.
'Blue Zinger' Glaucous Sedge has beautiful grayish blue foliage that is similar in color to Festuca 'Elijah Blue', but 'Blue Zinger' is much more tolerant of different sites, going from shade to full sun. Carex flacca 'Blue Zinger' spreads rapidly to make a good tight groundcover.
Gray's Sedge is a tall Carex which thrives in wet and shady locations. The light green semi-evergreen foliage grows 2', and is topped by 3' flower stems. The blooms rapidly turn to fascinating 1" spiky stars which are attractive in flower arrangements, fresh or dried. Carex grayi thrives in moist to wet conditions, so it naturally occurs along stream banks and edges of ponds. It is a striking addition to rain gardens and bioswales, and tolerates full sun if kept moist.
Bunny Blue® ('Hobb') Glaucous Woodland Sedge has steel blue evergreen foliage produced by a neat, easily divisible clump. Carex Blue Bunny® prefers a woodland location, but will tolerate sun if the moisture is good. Because of its bright color and neat habit, it looks particularly attractive when colonizing a shady site (both moist and dry). A selection by Bob and Lisa Head of GardenDebut.com.
'Ice Dance' Japanese Grass Sedge has green and white striped foliage. 'Ice Dance' Kan Suge is a great evergreen groundcover that can cover a large, shady area rapidly and easily. The small flowers appear above the foliage in May. Introduced to the US by Barry Yinger.
'Everillo' Weeping Sedge starts the summer season with lime green mounding foliage that rapidly turns a vivid yellowish gold. Like its relatives, 'Evergold', and 'Everest', 'Everillo' is evergreen, so it lights up the garden throughout the year. Carex 'Everillo' was found by Pat Fitzgerald of Ireland, as a naturally occurring sport of 'Evergold'. The graceful, flowing habit of the narrow leaves makes this sedge an excellent addition to mixed containers.
'Everest' ('CarFit01') Weeping Sedge is a lovely sport of Carex 'Evergold', with ivory white margins bordering the dark green evergreen leaves. The soft flowing foliage does well in woodland settings and in mixed shade containers, as its bright white stripes make a showy display. The habit is clumping. Found in 2006 by Pat Fitzgerald of Ireland.
PRN Preferred: More vivid and vigorous than its ‘Evergold’ parent. Foliage arches up from the crown and weeps gracefully.
'Evergold' Golden Sedge has yellow and green striped evergreen foliage. It is stunning as a container plant. This sedge looks good virtually year-round, and Bruce Crawford of the Rutgers Gardens has found that it is tolerant of full sun and poor soils as well. Wow!
Seersucker Sedge lives up to its common name with its wide green leaves that are "puckered like Christmas ribbon", as those articulate folks at North Creek Nurseries say. It tolerates moist locations and adds winter interest because this Carex is evergreen.
PRN Preferred: We love the unique, seersucker texture of the foliage and the purplish inflorescences.
'Banana Boat' Creeping Broadleaf Sedge has broad yellow deciduous leaf blades with green margins on a slowly spreading groundcover habit. The leaf color lights up shady spots, and is showy until the first heavy frosts in fall (this is a deciduous Sedge). Carex siderosticha 'Banana Boat' tolerates moist soils. so it would be a good addition to rain gardens and damp woodland locations.
Northern Sea Oats has showy oat-like seedheads in August over green foliage. Great for dried grass arrangements. Birds and woodland animals love the seeds especially in winter. It seeds itself readily along forest edges.
'Goldtau' Tufted Hairgrass is a compact form of this lovely cool season native grass. The name 'Godtau' means 'Golden Dew', which refers to the airy quality of the yellow inflorescences appearing in July to September. The dark green blades are semi-evergreen and happy in shady locations. Deschampsia 'Goldtau' is beautiful in mass plantings or mixed with ferns and other woodland perennials. The fall color of the seedheads is bronze.
Purple Lovegrass is a short warm season grass which is best planted in mass. The effect is stunning when Eragrostis spectabilis comes into bloom in August and September. The airy panicles are bright shades of reddish purple, making a showy carpet over sandy, dry and infertile soils. In the fall the foliage takes on shades of reddish bronze. This tough native provides good erosion control.
'Elijah Blue' Blue Fescue has short powder-blue foliage. It prefers cool weather and shady locations. Seedheads of Festuca glauca 'Elijah Blue' are airy and beautiful. Not usually a long-lived grass, but stunning in the right location.
Hakone Grass has graceful green foliage, like miniature bamboo. Soft, airy seedheads form in late summer. Fall and winter foliage color is tan. The tallest of the Hakonechloas, Andrew Bunting of the Chicago Botanic Garden describes it beautifully as "catching (the) wind and flow(ing) like a rolling wave."
PRN Preferred: Vigorous but graceful, an excellent shade groundcover.
The bright yellow spiky foliage of Gold Hakone Grass is more upright than H. 'Aureola'. This grass really lights up shady spots, especially when covered with delicate seedheads. This is Bruce Crawford's favorite Hakonechloa for a number of its attributes. Fall and winter color is tan.
Common Rush is a wonderful wet site plant, with deep green spaghetti-shaped leaves that stand stiffly upright. The ivory-white flowers appearing in summer are not showy, but they make an interesting contrast to the unusual foliage, and their seeds produce food for many small birds. Juncus effusus is an attractive upright element for ponds, rain gardens and swampy areas, especially since it is evergreen.
The reddish inflorescences of Variegated Japanese Silver Grass appear in September over white and green striped leaves. The silver seedheads and light tan leaves and stems are attractive all winter.
'Skyracer' Purple Moor Grass has tall seedheads in mid summer that are very showy above short, green foliage which turns yellow in the fall. Introduced by Kurt Bluemel, it holds up well in the winter. Bruce Crawford of The Rutgers Gardens calls Molinia a 'ghost plant' because you can see things through the airy seedheads. Molinias tolerate moist soils well.
Muhlenbergia capillaris has deep rose-purple inflorescences in September, and the effect makes people stop in their tracks and stare. It must have a well-drained site, especially in the winter.
White Muhly Grass comes from Florida Superior Trees, and is only reliably hardy in Zone 7. However, this grass is so beautiful that it is well worth planting as an annual (like Pennisetum 'Rubrum'). The airy white inflorescences make a cloud above the fine green blades starting in late summer, continuing well into the fall. This makes Muhlenbergia ‘White Cloud’ a good fall container plant, and it also performs well in dry, sterile sites. Who knows, you might get lucky and have it survive the winter.
Undaunted® Ruby Muhley Grass ('PUND01S') is a warm season grass which comes into its glory in late summer and fall. The fine green foliage is the setting for delicate airy pink plumes above the basal clump to make a stunning show in mass. Muhlenbergia Undaunted® performs well in dry high pH sites, but also tolerates moist soil, unlike Muhlenbergia capillaris. The showy seedheads are particularly striking when backlit by afternoon light, and they persist for winter interest long after the pink has faded.
Mexican Feather Grass has delicate, hair-like green foliage which is topped by airy tan seedheads in early summer. It is great in mixed containers. Formerly named Stipa. Bruce Crawford of The Rutgers Gardens has had it survive in North Jersey, so maybe it's hardier in the ground in a well-drained site.
'Heavy Metal' Switchgrass has blue-green foliage that is very upright, with attractive seedheads appearing in July and lasting throughout the winter. One of the earliest Switchgrasses introduced to the trade like all the Panicums this is an important seed source to feed winter birds. Selected by Kurt Bluemel.
'Northwind' Switchgrass has green-tan seedheads above blue-green foliage with a very upright habit. Introduced by Roy Diblik of Northwind Perennial Farm in Wisconsin. Our favorite upright Panicum, and the perfect tall grass for tight spots. An excellent tan in the winter. 2014 Perennial Plant of the Year. Bruce Neary of BCN Horticultural Services loves 'Northwind' because it never flops.
PRN Preferred: A reliably upright Panicum with very attractive blade color.
'Shenandoah' Switchgrass has reddish-tan seedheads above reddish-green foliage with burgundy tips. The fall color is a burgundy-red, turning to a soft tan in winter. Selected by Dr. Hans Simon in Germany and brought into this country by the US National Arboretum. Important food source for winter birds.
PRN Preferred: One of the shortest and showiest Panicums, with red blade tips in early summer.
'Cassian' Fountain Grass has light gold seedheads above fine green foliage. The seedheads are a little more colorful than 'Hameln' when they first emerge. Introduced by Kurt Bluemel. The winter foliage is a pale tan.
'Hameln' Dwarf Fountain Grass has creamy white seedheads, above fine green foliage. This is the most well-known of the Pennisetums, and a real workhorse. Like all Pennisetums, 'Hameln' does best with good drainage. The thin leaves take on an ivory winter color.
Lumen Gold™ (‘JS Jommenik’) produces golden foliage in spring with a tight mounded form. The yellow blades hold their striking color throughout the spring and early summer, maturing to lemon or light green later. Pennisetum Lumen Gold™ comes from Belgium where it was found by Jan Spruyt. Like Pennisetum Hameln, Lumen Gold™ is crowned by attractive 2’ plumes in fall and winter. Best if not cut back until spring.
'Piglet' Fountain Grass is more compact than P. 'Hameln' and hardier and showier than P. 'Little Bunny'. 'Piglet' is a good choice for a really compact space. Seedheads are a soft tan, lasting into early winter. Introduced by Brent Horvath of Intrinsic Perennials
'Red Head' Fountain Grass has huge smoky burgundy bottlebrush seedheads above wide green leaves. Earlier blooming than 'Moudry' and showier. Selected by Brent Horvath from seedlings of P. 'National Arboretum'. It really turns heads when in bloom, and the winter foliage is attractive.
'Karley Rose' Oriental Fountain Grass has very colorful rose-pink inflorescences over green foliage. 'Karley Rose' blooms all summer, with the older seedheads becoming a dark tan. This grass has an open habit.
Pennisetum x advena 'Rubrum' has beautiful red inflorescences and burgundy foliage. Red Tender Fountain Grass is an annual that blooms for so long, and is so beautiful, that it is well worth replanting every summer. Use it for containers, or directly in the ground. Formerly classified as P. setaceum 'Rubrum'.
'Carousel' Little Bluestem is a more compact version of our lovely native grass, with beautiful blue-green summer foliage which turns amazing shades of purple and bronze in fall. The delicate seedheads appear in August and September, and are especially showy when backlit by evening sunlight. Plant in excellent drainage for the best performance. Found by Donald Boehm of Illinois, and introduced by Chicagoland Grows®, so you know it's cold tolerant. All Little Bluestems attract butterflies when in bloom and songbirds when in seed.
'Smoke Signal' Little Bluestem is a Walters Gardens introduction, chosen for its vivid coloration in late summer and fall. The foliage is a bluish green in early to mid summer, turning to deep red and purple shades starting in August. The translucent seedheads are an important food source for grassland birds, and the tan stems maintain their upright habit throughout winter. Schizachyrium thrives best in dry, sterile sites, and does not want supplemental irrigation or fertilizer.
‘Standing Ovation’ Little Bluestem is an exciting new introduction by those talented folks at North Creek Nurseries. The steel blue blades are wider than most Little Bluestem. With thicker stems, the habit is reliably upright throughout the summer, fall, and winter. The summer colors of blue with hints of purple turn to spectacular shades of lavender, red, and orange in the fall. The airy seedheads are beautiful, especially when backlit by afternoon light, and the light tan winter color is displayed impressively on the upright strong stems. We find that it tolerates more irrigation than we expected, although its ideal conditions are those of dry sterile sites. One of the native plants chosen by Piet Oudolf for the newly planted meadow garden at Delaware Botanic Gardens.
'Twilight Zone' Little Bluestem is a tall native grass which thrives in dry, sterile locations. This selection was introduced by Walters Gardens because of its vivid coloration, which is visible starting in mid summer, earlier than many Schizachyriums. The leaves and stems sport shades of silver, mauve and purple which become more purple and burgundy as the weather cools. The seedheads appear in early fall and are both beautiful and a source of food for birds. Dry sites are critical to keeping 'Twilight Zone' upright.
Autumn Moor Grass is a good adaptable short grass that produces chartreuse-green fine foliage topped by delicate creamy seedheads in late summer. It is happy in both sun and partial shade, and tolerates dry sites. Most effective in large sweeps in the landscape, especially since Sesleria stays green well into late fall.
Prairie Dropseed is a green clumping grass with airy delicate panicles held high above the foliage. The fall color is a wonderful orange, changing to cream in winter. It is extremely tolerant of dry sites, and it has a wonderful flowery fragrance to boot when planted in mass. An important seed source for winter birds.
PRN Preferred: What other grass combines beautiful airy seed panicles, showy fall color and great fragrance?