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The 8 Best Ornamental Grasses for Ontario Landscapes

September 5, 2022
Written by Aaron

Have you ever tried planting ornamental grasses in your garden or landscape? There are so many reasons to love them! In garden beds, throughout the landscape, or in mixed container arrangements, ornamental grasses bring plenty of visual impact and appeal—even in winter! There are several different varieties we can grow in Southern Ontario, and they’re surprisingly versatile.

Ornamental Grasses are Simply the Best!

While many of our garden flowers only bloom for a limited period, ornamental grasses bring long-lasting colour, texture, and movement to landscape designs. Their blooms form feathery tufts that float above their wispy foliage, remaining all through winter.

Here are some of the best ornamental grasses to grow in Simcoe and surrounding areas in Southern Ontario.

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Zebra Grass

A popular variety of the common ornamental grass known as miscanthus, zebra grass always gets noticed! It’s no surprise how it earned its name—its slender foliage blades are painted with white zebra stripes! Its blooms are stringy like fancy ostrich feathers with a subtle pink tint. At maturity, it reaches 5–7 feet high, 4–6 feet wide, and performs best in full sun. Zebra grass prefers consistently moist soil but doesn’t like wet feet, so make sure your soil is loose and well-draining.

Feather Reed Grass 'Karl Foerster'

This tall, yet compact ornamental grass grows upright and doesn’t spread much, so it’s perfect for smaller spaces or mass planting along borders. Its foliage is bright emerald green, but its inflorescence takes on a creamy tan shade, similar to wheat. As a cool season ornamental grass, it grows actively in spring and fall but goes dormant in the summer heat. Karl Foerster reaches 4–6 feet tall at maturity, but only spreads about 2–3 feet.

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Blue Fescue

Blue fescue is a fantastic choice if you’re looking for dwarf ornamental grasses for borders and garden edging! It’s tidy, round clumps of foliage have an icy blue-green tint—they’re so pretty when you line them up in a row! Divide your blue fescue and replant the divisions every three years or so to prevent the roots from crowding and dying back.

Purple Fountain Grass

With its rich plum purple foliage and velvety plumes, purple fountain grass is a huge favourite for mixed arrangements and planters. It’s the perfect “thriller” plant for adding height, bold colour, and texture. Purple fountain grass is often used to bring colour to the fall landscape after summer annuals have faded. It’s not hardy to zone 6, so we grow this ornamental grass as an annual here in Simcoe.

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Shenandoah Switchgrass 

You’ll love watching the foliage of this ornamental grass transition in colour as the seasons change! In spring, Shenandoah switchgrass emerges a cool blue-green. In summer, it begins to take on a reddish flush, and by fall, it’s burgundy all the way through. It does best in full sun and consistently moist soil, so be sure to water deeply during the hottest summer months.

Japanese Blood Grass

The base of the leaf blades of Japanese blood grass is a typical grassy green, but the top half is bright crimson red! That bold colour contrast makes it one of the most popular perennial ornamental grasses. It reaches a modest 2 feet high and wide at maturity, so it’s an excellent alternative groundcover for filling in bare spots in the garden and landscape.

Pennisetum Hameln

This shaggy ornamental grass grows 3 feet tall and wide with silvery-white plumes that look like kitten tails. Take a few cuttings to add to bouquets and cut arrangements—they last a long time and have such a pretty texture! You’ll love how fluffy and shiny it looks all winter long.

Little Bluestem

A dense, compact ornamental grass with an upright growth habit, little bluestem emerges in spring with teal green foliage. As it matures, it takes on a vibrant rusty red shade, making it a popular choice for autumn colour. Birds love its fuzzy white seeds, which are a valuable food source when seeds and fruit are scarce in winter.

Discover even more gorgeous ornamental grasses for sale in Simcoe, Ontario by visiting Eising Garden Centre! There’s still time to plant them this year to add fall colour and winter interest to your scenery. Ask our staff for planting and care tips if you’re still getting the hang of things—we always want to help you get off on the right foot!

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