The Q&A Archives: ornamental grass

Question: can you help me to locate a variety of ornamental grass that I could use to boarder a sidewalk that is under a massive Magnolia it is mostly shade...I live in the Chicago area...many thanks...Linda

Answer: Ornamental grasses prefer growing in full sun, but here are a few that will grow in shade:
Japanese Forest Grass or Hakone Grass (Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'): This attractive grass is one of the best ornamental grasses for shade. Although it is rhizomatous (spreading), it grows slowly and behaves itself, acting more like a clump-forming grass. It has striking gold variegated leaves with an attractive habit of falling over to one side. Grows about 16 to 24 inches tall and 18 to 24 inches wide.

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. 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.

Plantain-Leaved Sedge (Carex plantaginea): A clumping cool season sedge hardy to Zone 4. 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.

Snowy Woodrush (Luzula nivea): A clump-former, it grows about 18 inches tall and is evergreen with light green leaves and clustered white flowers in May to June.

Greater Woodrush (Luzula sylvatica): This evergreen, clump-forming woodrush has green foliage covered with silky hairs. It grows about 2 feet tall and flowers in late spring into early summer. It prefers moisture and light to medium shade, but is quite drought tolerant. In its native habitat in Europe and Asia, it grows on acid soil, but is tolerant of most soils. Makes a good companion to ferns, shade-loving wildflowers and shrubs.

Best wishes with your new ornamental grasses!

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