Have a Grass: Rethinking Ornamental Grasses in Your Landscape

May 30, 2018

By: Barb Holtz

As I've shared previously, I recently moved into a new house. The yard is manageable and suburban. It has some great plants but is missing my native favorites. I'll share my "backyard restoration" journey with you throughout the summer. But let's go out front to a large plant not yet sprouting this spring but clearly a mainstay in the view from the street - an ornamental grass.

Grasses are often overlooked in home yardscapes. Grasses bloom and have fall color. Grasses give wildlife places to rest and cover. Grasses add interest among blooms. Non-turf grasses hold precious soil and percolate water. Grasses are great but not all are created equal. I have one large grass clump in my new yard. I have no idea what it is, but I know it's not native.

A native grass can add interest to your landscape as beautifully as an ornamental grass but offers so much more. Native plants, like grasses, are adapted to northeast Ohio climate, soils, and critters unlike non-native flora. Ornamental grasses aren't bad but in the quest to preserve our native botanical heritage, why not choose otherwise.

Check out Little Bluestem - a native, warm season bunch grass that shoots up 3-5 feet. Warm season means it can take the summer heat and not brown out. Bunch grass means it grows in a clump rather than turf-like, perfect for that place you want to showcase in a garden bed.  It blooms late summer and adds fall color in the blue to red-gold stems and seed heads. Bees, butterflies and birds search out Little Bluestem for food and cover. Many skippers (a butterfly group) require Little Bluestem for caterpillar food.

I invite you to think outside the typical. Think beyond the standard garden variety and your plantings closer to home. Plant native. Have a grass - a native grass.

Mystery Grass?
Mystery Grass?
Little Bluestem