Ornamental Grasses Overview

Published On: September 7th, 2017

September is the time of year when ornamental grasses truly makes an impact in the landscape. Many have showy plumes of airy seedheads that move gracefully in the breeze and offer winter interest even after they age to their seasonal hues of tan and brown.

We carry many types of ornamental grasses. All are winter hardy and clump forming (i.e. they do not run around!). Following is a brief overview of several of our most popular hardy perennial grasses for sun to light shade (we’ll feature shade grasses in a later article).

Ornamental & Wisconsin Native Grasses

Switch Grass

ornamental grasses shenandoah northwind switch grass panicum


Prairie parentage gives excellent hardiness & vigor to this group. Seeds are a food source for birds in winter.

  • ‘Shenandoah’: (left image) Foliage grows to 36″, with the top half of the blades becoming dark red by mid-summer. Foliage is topped in late summer by airy red seedheads. Total height 4′-5′.
  • ‘Northwind’: (right image) Dense columnar form. Olive green foliage. Airy green seedheads aging to tan. Excellent winter presence. Height 4′-5′.

Prairie Dropseed

ornamental grasses prairie dropseed sporobolus grass


A prairie native perfectly adapted to our Wisconsin growing conditions. Delicate soft green blades and “see-through” whispy seedheads in summer. Height to 36″.

Silver Grass

ornamental grasses feather reed grass calamogrostis karl foerster grass


Sometimes called ‘Northern Pampas Grass’ due to its feathery cloud-like plumes which remain attractive throughout the winter months. We have several varieties, ranging in height and in foliage color and form. Height ranges from 4′-7′, depending on the variety.

Little Bluestem

ornamental grasses little bluestem schizachyrium grass


We carry the native prairie species as well as selected cultivars. Vertical form and blue-toned foliage that becomes purple & deep red as fall temperatures drop.

Feather Reed Grass

ornamental grasses feather reed grass calamogrostis karl foerster


Deservedly extremely popular as a landscape plant. Narrow, upright habit. Wheat-colored plumes form in June and remain throughout the growing season and into winter. Foliage is either green or variegated, depending upon the cultivar.

Big Bluestem

ornamental grasses big bluestem andropogon


Another prairie native is sometimes referred to as “Turkey Foot” because of the characteristic shape of its seedhead, which resembles a turkey’s foot! This tall drought-tolerant grass was once the dominant plant in many of our midwestern tallgrass prairies.