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Perennial Grasses

Hardy Ornamental Grasses

Want a low maintenance, tough alternative for your yard?   Look to ornamental grasses!  They offer landscape interest from late spring through late winter.  Think of them as a ‘buff’ evergreen for your winter garden.  Grasses provide:

  • Variegated or colorful Fall leaves that offer good contrast with other plants
  • Color and texture in Fall
  • Winter interest especially when paired with evergreens
  • Low maintenance care
  • A lovely solution for windy locations

What Size Do You Need?

Size varies from small, front of the border accent grasses to large focal points of over 12 feet tall.    Larger grasses make excellent screens, windbreaks, or striking accent points in the landscape.  Plant ornamental grasses where the wind can move through them.  Movement and sound will add a new dimension to your garden.

Growing Conditions and Maintenance

Most grasses need full sun, though a few varieties are adaptable to part shade.  Soil should be reasonably fertile.   Water consistently during the first season to establish healthy root growth.   Add 1”–2” of mulch to conserve moisture around the roots.  Once established, most grasses require much less moisture and minimal feeding.  Once-a-year maintenance includes cutting the old foliage back in early spring before new blades emerge.

Ornamental grasses fall into one of two categories—cool season or warm season.  Cool season grasses produce new growth about the same time as bulbs and peonies, while warm season grasses tend to wait until warmer weather begins. Take advantage of these traits to complement spring flowers or hide dying bulb foliage. 

** Please Note:  In stock availability of specific varieties listed below will vary depending upon time of season and sales. Please visit us to view current varieties.

Big Bluestem (Andropogon)

Height: 4'-7'

Spread: 2'-3'

Type:  Warm Season

Exposure: Full Sun

Other Notes:  A native North American Grass.  Silvery-blue foliage with purplish flower spikes in late summer.  Foliage turns a reddish-copper color in fall.  Clumping.

Blue Fescue (Festuca glauca)

Height:  8”-12”

Spread:  8”-12”

Type:  Cool Season

Exposure:  Sun

Other Notes:  Mound forming, blue green in color, early summer flowering, good companion for gray or purple foliage and spring bulbs

Blue Gramma Grass (Bouteloua)

'Blonde Ambition'

Height: 30"-36"

Spread: 30"-36"

Exposure: Full to Part Sun

Type: Warm Season

Other Notes:  Blue green foliage gives rise to chartreuse, aging to buff flowers.  They look like little eyelashes.  These seed heads remain in winter giving a completely new look of ornamental seed heads for the home gardener.   A Plant Select plant.

Blue Oat Grass / Avena Grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens)

Height:  2’-3’

Spread:  2’-3’

Exposure:  Sun

Type:  Cool Season

Other Notes:  Fine, spiky arching blue-green blades with oatlike seedheads.   Foliage stays low and the seedheads create a fan-like appearance

Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis arundinacea)

Height:  3’-4’

Spread:  2’

Exposure:  Sun to part sun

Type:  Cool season

Other Notes: Blooms early, upright narrow habit, and fine textured arching blades.  Decorative plumes fade to yellow cream in winter.  One of the earliest to emerge in spring.

‘Karl Foerster’: green leaves

Fountain Grass, Dwarf (Pennisetum)

Exposure:  Full Sun

Type:  Warm Season

Other Notes:   Miniature fountain grasses that mix well in beds and borders. Fuzzy seed heads appear in mid-summer and resemble 'bunny tails.'   Foliage turns golden rust in Fall.


Japanese Blood Grass (Imperata)

Variety: 'Red Baron'

Height: 18"-20"

Spread: 18"

Exposure: Full Sun

Type: Warm Season

Other Notes: Another grass for pronounced burgundy color. Emerges green with red tips and deepens as the season progresses. Plant in well-drained, moist soil. This grass is grown for its foliage as flowers are insignificant. It will naturalize over time and is considered invasive in some parts of the U.S.

Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa)

Variety: 'Aureola'

Height: 1'-2'

Spread: 2'-3'

Exposure:  Morning or dappled light.  Will also grow in full shade.
Avoid hot afternoon sun.

Type:  Warm Season -- truly, it will be slow to emerge in Spring.

Other Notes:  Brilliant yellow foliage tinges pinkish red in cooler weather. Beautiful cascading habit.   Seed heads are inconspicuous.  Average water needs -- but prefers consistent moisture.

Korean Feather Grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha)

Height: 4'

Spread: 3'

Exposure: Sun to Part Sun

Type: Warm Season

Other Notes: Unlike it's cousin, Feather Reed Grass, Korean Feather is a WARM season grass that hails from Asia.  It will come into full glory as summer progresses with blooms late summer into early fall.  Plumes are purplish red when they first open and then lighten to a greenish tan.  A striking wide bladed grass that is adaptable to partial shade.  Flowering will be more profuse in full sun.  Habit is upright and arching.  Zone 4.

** Photo Courtesy Bailey Nurseries

Little Bluestem Grass (Schizachyrium)

Height: 3'

Spread:  18"

Exposure:  Full Sun

Type:  Warm Season

Other Notes:  The blue-green foliage begins to take on scarlet red tones in late summer, turning a deeper red-purple through the fall. Tiny, tan seed heads appear in early fall on the top half of the stems. An improvement over older cultivars, this grass maintains its strictly upright habit through fall. Schizachyrium is a great choice if you are looking to restore an eroded site, or for a plant that will grow in hot, dry areas where other plants have a hard time surviving.

Maiden Grass (Miscanthus)

Height:  4’-6’

Spread:  3’-5’

Exposure:  Sun to Part Sun

Type:  Warm season

Other Notes:  Vase to round shaped grasses, bloom in late summer and fall, tassels usually hang on into winter.  A long-lived landscape plant.  Put it where you want it because they are difficult to move once established.


Maiden Grass/Eulalia (gracillimus):  5’-6'H x 3’-4’W  Rounded mounds of fine, silver veined green leaves have a graceful arch.  Fall: Golden yellow foliage, plumes emerge reddish and tinge to silvery white.  One of the oldest types of Maiden Grass. Zone 5  Variegated type has white & green leaves.

Morning Light:  4'H x 3'W, variegated white and green leaves, rounded habit.  Zone 5

Porcupine (Strictus): 4'-6'H x 4'-6'W, horizontal cream banding on wide green blades.  Upright, arching vase habit.

Purple Maiden Grass / Flame Grass (purpurescens): 4'-6'H x 2'W.  Upright habit. Green blades in summer turn bright orange tinged red in fall and are topped with tan seed heads. A little hardier than most at Zone 4 cold tolerance.

Mexican Feather Grass (Stipa tenuissima AKA Nasella)

Height:  18"-24"

Spread:  18"-24"

Exposure:  Full Sun

Type:  Cool Season (semi-Evergreen)

Other Notes:  Buff seed heads persist on bright green blades all season.  Moves in the slightest breeze and creates a lovely texture.  May be short-lived but does best in well-drained, poor to average soil.  Heat and drought tolerant.   Zone 6 -- but often overwinters in Zone 5.   Wonderful in containers too.

Pampas / Ravenna Grass (Erianthus ravennae)

Height:  10’-12’

Spread:  5’

Exposure:  Sun

Type:  Warm Season

Other Notes:  Very tall—excellent specimen grass.   Arching green leaves stay at about 3’.   Blooms late summer, of tall silver/purple panicles rise above the foliage to 12’.  Lightens to a buff color that holds all winter.    Colorado’s alternative to true non-hardy Pampas Grass.

Ribbon Grass (Phalaris arundinacea)

Height: 24’-36’

Spread: 3’-4’+

Exposure: Sun to part sun

Type: Cool season

Other Notes: Warning: This grass likes to go romping through your garden. In other words—it spreads! So put it in a place where you don’t mind it wandering to fill in a space. Variegated green/white foliage is very striking. May go brown in hot weather.

Switch Grass (Panicum)

Height: 3’-4’

Spread:  2'-3'

Exposure:  Sun

Type:  Cool Season

Other Notes:  This is a smaller version of switch grass.  Green leaves are tipped in burgundy in early summer.  As the season progresses, the burgundy color becomes more prominent.  Flowers are pink, airy plumes held high above the grass.  The entire grass will age to a buff color in winter.

Map of Colorado Springs with Phelan Gardens location marked

Visit Our Central Colorado Springs Location

We are open all year round and always offer the seasons most popular varieties for gardeners and plant lovers alike!

Phelan Gardens
4955 Austin Bluffs Parkway.
Colorado Springs, CO, 80918

(719) 574-8058

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A photograph of various signs that point to sections of Phelan Gardens such as Perennials, Vines, Grasses and more
Phelan Gardens Perennials section of their store