The Q&A Archives: Smaller Ornamental Grasses

Question: My problem is my Japanese Garden, the ornamental grasses are taking over. They were planted 7 years ago and are taller than the house. My question---Is there a variety of ornamental grasses that will only grow to about 3 feet max and will be able to successfully tear these out without a repeat performance?

Answer: Ornamental grass heights are a bit deceptive; on some varieties the blooms will tower over the foliage. Keep in mind, too, that the grasses grow their largest and lushest when provided ample fertilizer and water so it is sometimes possible to maintain them at the lower end of their mature size range by reducing those inputs somewhat. Some smaller grasses to consider might include dwarf varieties such as a small pampas grass with foliage to three feet (Cortaderia selloana 'Pumila); Chinese Fountain Grass, three feet tall and wide (Pennisetum alopecuroides); or Panicum virgatum 'Heavy Metal', four to five feet in flower. Smaller still is 'Little Bunny', a tiny miniature fountain grass.

Ornamental grasses will increase gradually in width every year, eventually taking on a sort of doughnut shape as the outer edge remains vigorous and the inner center dies out. Although these plants are touted as low mainenance, and in comparison to many plants are relatively low maintenance, they do need to be divided eventually both to restore vigor and in some cases to maintain a desired size.

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