The Q&A Archives: ornamental grasses

Question: what ornamental grasses would be good for a shady area? I want to line my driveway with them and it's mostly shady and I'd like to line it with some ornamental grasses. thx

Answer: Most ornamental grasses thrive in full sun, but there are a few that will perform well in shade. Consider growing Japanese Forest Grass or Hakone Grass (Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'): This attractive grass is one of the best ornamental grasses for shade.

Palm Sedge (Carex muskingumensis): this sedge spreads to create a low maintenance groundcover for moist shady locations. The light green leaves resemble palm fronds at the top, which gives it its common name. This warm season sedge is native to low woods and moist meadows of central North America. Grows about 2 feet tall.

Bowles Golden Sedge (Carex elata 'Aurea' or 'Bowles Golden'): is another one of the best cool season clumping sedges. Has attractive lime-green leaves in early spring and makes a lovely companion to gold variegated hostas. Grows 2 feet tall and prefers moist shade.

Silver Variegated Japanese Sedge (Carex morrowii 'Variegata'): This sedge has white leaf margins and grows 12 to 18 inches tall. It likes morning sun or part shade.

Variegated Sedge (Carex morrowii 'Ice Dance'): this semi-evergreen sedge has green foliage edged in pure white. One of the newer introductions, it spreads to create a low-maintenance groundcover in the shade garden.

Plantain-Leaved Sedge (Carex plantaginea): A clumping cool season sedge, grows 6 to 12 inches tall and has green leaf blades that are wider than most sedges. Among the grasses for shade, this is one of the best for tolerating dry conditions. It makes a nice companion to ferns and North American woodland natives.

Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium): this clumping warm season grass grows about 3 feet tall. It has dark-green bamboo-like foliage and attractive dangling flowers in mid-summer. This grass can take quite a bit of sun. Warning: it can self-seed excessively, so remove flowers in late fall. The flowers are lovely in autumn cut-flower arrangements.

Good luck with your new plants!

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