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Best Grasses For Small Areas

Posted by Jeff VanBuren

The Best Grasses For Small Areas

You know that small spot in your landscape where you just don’t know what to fill it with? Annuals would work great, but you don’t want to have to replant them every year. Well how about using one of many small ornamental grasses? 

Blue Fescue Grass –

Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’- is a colorful very small grass that only gets up toBlue Fescue Grass a foot tall and wide. As it’s name implies, it has bluish colored leaf blades. It likes full sun and can tolerate a dry soil. It does not do well in moist soil. Honestly this grass looks the best in the spring, but if you take care of it you can make it look good most of the year. As it gets hot and humid Blue Fescue can kind of peter out. If it does just trim it back and in a few weeks it will look good again. If the winter is mild this one can be an evergreen too. I would also recommend dividing it every few years to help keep it fresh looking. Cut back to the ground in early March.



Dwarf Fountain Grass –

dwarf fountain grass pennisetum hamelnPennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ – This is probably the most commonly used of all the smaller grasses. It is great because it can grow almost anywhere. Hameln will work the best in a moist soil, but will tolerate almost any soil. It has a pinkish / white seed head in August – October and will hold it into the winter. The foliage is light green and turns orange / tan in the fall before changing to brown for the winter. Hameln gets up to 2’ tall and wide and is hardy in zones 5 – 9. Cut back to about 4” in later February.


Sedge Grass covers many different varieties, but I will just hit on a couple that are proven to work well in the St. Louis area.

Carex Evergold –

Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’-  has green and yellowish variegated leave blades and gets about aCarex evergold foot tall and wide. As with most sedges it likes a wetter soil and actually will not do very well in a dry soil. Evergold will perform best in full sun, but it can take some shade. This is another one that can hold it’s color through a mild winter. Cut back to the ground in late February.





Carex Ice Dance-

carex ice danceThis is another variegated sedge with creamy / white and green leaves. It will get about a foot tall and wide, but it also can spread to make a ground cover. Ice dance is great for shady areas and can tolerate a wet soil. Cut back to the ground in late February.




Little Blue Stem Grass-

Schizachyrium scoparium ‘MinnblueA’ Blue Heaven – is a native prairie grass that can work well inLittle Blue Stem Grass landscapes too. It gets 2’ – 4’ tall and 1.5’ – 2.5’ wide. Little Blue Stem has blue / gray foliage in the spring and summer turning to a reddish / purple in the fall. The seed heads come up in late July – August and are reddish in color, but turn to a silvery color in the fall. Little Blue Stem does bset in a drier soil and prefers to be in a sunny location. Cut back to about 3” in late February.


Adagio Grass –

adagio grassMiscanthus sinensis ‘ Adagio’ – is a green leafed clump forming grass that gets 3’ – 4’ tall and wide. The plume it puts up in late summer comes out pinkish and then turns to a creamy white, very attractive.  Adagio is very hardy and can tolerate about any soil. It prefers full sun, but can take a little shade too. Cut back to about 5” in late February.



Little Zebra Grass-

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’ Little Zebra – has an interesting characteristic to it, mostlittle zebra grass variegated grasses have the stripe running with the grain of the leaf, but Zebra and Little Zebra Grass have a yellow horizontal stripe on a green leaf blade. Little Zebra gets 3’ – 4’ tall and about 3’ wide. It can tolerate just about any soil and prefers a sunny location. A purple plume comes up in late summer, turns tan in the fall, and persists into the winter. Cut back to about 4” in late February.






Sweet Flag –

Sweet Flag grassAcorus gramineus ‘Ogon’ – this is another low spreading grass. It has somewhat sweetly fragrant yellow and green striped foliage, gets 1 foot tall and wide, can be used as a ground cover, likes wet soil, sun, and can even be used as a bog plant. Cut back to the ground in early March.

Many other small grasses are on the market, but these are some of the ones I know for sure work well in the St. Louis area.

Tags: Plants, Perennials