Ornamental grasses are a great addition to any landscape. They add texture, color, form and interest. These grasses need the same types of maintenance as other landscape plants (water, fertilizer, division) but generally require much less. As with all types of plants, consider your site conditions, which include sun, shade, mature size (height and spread) for placement purposes, soil pH, soil moisture and soil texture. The ornamental grasses below thrive in Central Florida.
Muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris, a native plant, reaches a height of 3-4 feet and spread of 2-3 feet. It prefers full sun, can tolerate extreme drought and flooding, has moderate salt tolerance and works well in wetland sites and beachfront landscapes. Muhly grass has narrow foliage and produces pink/purple fall flowers. It is used as a border, an accent, in mass plantings and as cut flowers.
Fakahatchee grass, Tripsacum dactyloides, another native, reaches a height and spread of 4-6 feet. It prefers full sun, does well in partial shade/partial sun and tolerates flooding and standing water. Fakahatchee grass produces cream/yellow/orange/red flowers from spring through summer and is a larval food plant for the byssus skipper butterfly.
Purple fountain grass, Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum,’ can reach a height of 4-6 feet and spread of 2-4 feet and prefers full sun. It has moderate drought tolerance and needs well-drained soil moisture. Purple fountain grass has narrow purple leaves with purple-pink or copper flowers in summer and fall. This is an excellent ornamental grass when used in mass plantings, containers, as an accent, border or cut flowers. It can reseed into surrounding areas, which could be good or bad depending on your location and preference.
All grasses in this article are easy to divide, share with your friends and neighbors or use to create more color in your own landscape. Once established, irrigation may not be needed at all. You can consider annual fertilization, but these plants generally obtain enough nutrients from the soil. For more in-depth information on these and other Florida-Friendly ornamental grasses, using your browser, go to ‘Ask IFAS’ followed by each of the following: Considerations for Selection and Use of Ornamental Grasses, Muhly Grass and Purple Fountain Grass.
For assistance with horticultural questions, call us at 813-744-5519 or visit us at the UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County, located at 5339 County Rd. 579 in Seffner.