Any Ornamental Grasses for Moderate Shade? - Knowledgebase Question

Suffern, Ne
Question by GTonellijr
March 30, 2009
Live in lower NY State and I give up, the deer win. Can I plant ornamental grasses in an area or partial sun?
Thank you very much

Answer from NGA
March 30, 2009


Try these terrific ornamental grasses to accentuate a shady spot in your garden:
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, and thrives in moist shade.

Palm Sedge (Carex muskingumensis): 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'): Hardy to Zone 5, it 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 is hardy to Zone 5. It has white leaf margins and grows 12 to 18 inches tall. It likes morning sun or part shade.

Variegated Sedge (Carex morrowii 'Ice Dance'): Hardy to Zone 5, 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 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.

Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium): Hardy to Zone 5, 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.

Snowy Woodrush (Luzula nivea): This woodrush is listed as hardy to Zone 6, but I've grown it successfully in Zone 5 for more than six years. A clump-former, it grows about 18 inches tall and is evergreen with light green leaves and clustered white flowers in May to June. In cooler climates, it can take sun, but you should give it light shade in hot dry conditions.

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.

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