The Q&A Archives: What 6-9' Ornamental Grasses Will Survive In Zone 5?

Question: I live in zone 5 and am looking for an ornamental grass to plant in front of my house. It will be directly against a south facing rock wall. I like the tall grass that is full from the bottom up and just grass. Preferably with no plumes or color. I like saccharum ravennae but it is not listed to be viable in my zone. Can you offer an alternative or advise on keeping this grass healthy in my zone?

Answer: Thanks to Carole Ottesen's great book, "Ornamental Grasses" (McGraw-Hill, Inc.; ISBN 0-07-048021-4), I've found a few tall, hardy grasses for you to investigate. I don't know if you can find a grass that doesn't blossom, but you can cut them out if you wish. Miscanthus sinenis condensatus is a very natural looking grass, a good foil to your rock wall. Others to consider are Giant Reed (Arundo donax -- marginal in zone 5) and Giant miscanthus (M. floridulus -- zone 6). Perhaps with rich soil, plenty of moisture, and the microclimate created by your south-facing rock wall will keep it protected in winter. A heavy dose of mulch in fall will help immensely. If you can't find these grasses locally, try Kurt Bluemel, Inc., 2740 Greene Lane, Baldwin, MD 21013; ph# 301-557-7229; or Shady Oaks Nursery LLC, P.O. Box 708, Waseca, MN 56093; ph# 800-504-8006; Best of luck to you!

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