Summer Grasses

Gardens, like kitchens or bathrooms, need an update sometimes. An easy update? Add ornamental grasses. No, not pampas grass--the plant that needs dynamite to get it out of the ground--but switchgrass (native), bluestem (native), mosquito grass (native) and Japanese forest grass (shade), to name a few. I know our hearts went pitter-patter over the word native and the word shade (mine did). We're all looking for more native plants, and since we're in Western North Carolina, we're also looking for more shade plants.

Grasses are drought tolerant. (Who could use that about now?)  Grasses add movement, texture, height, color, and winter interest to the garden. Warm season grasses bloom in mid-to-late summer to early fall and come in every size from 6' x 3' to 12" x 12". Their color range is spectacular, and adding them gives the garden an immediate pick-me-up. (Again, who couldn't use that about now?) 

Companion Plants for Grasses:

Tall Grasses: 5-6'

  • Agastasche
  • Echinacea
  • Euportorium
  • Hibiscus
  • Russian Sage
  • Solidago
  • Sedum (tall)
  • Verbena bonariensis

Short Grasses: 2-4' and under

  • Coreopsis
  • Galliardia
  • Penstemon
  • Salvia
  • Sedum (tall and groundcover)
  • Yucca



Characteristics and Uses of Grasses:

  • Tolerates any soil conditions
  • Attracts butterflies
  • Attract birds
  • Deer resistant
  • Rain gardens
  • Wildlife habitat
  • Wildlife food
  • Drought tolerant
  • Erosion
  • Most work under black walnut
  • Tolerates air pollution
  • Appealing in sweeps & masses
  • Rock gardens
  • Perennial borders
  • Container gardens 
  • Screens
  • Focal point
  • Winter Interest

Click on each picture for a full description.

The 4th is over, and the garden is in full summer swing. What corner or front foundation could use sprucing up? Where do you lack fall and winter interest? In small spaces I pick one grass, but it can be as large as 'Heavy Metal'. In larger spaces, I layer the grasses using different sizes, colors, and textures, like you would any of your perennials. Whatever the need, besides looking fabulous in the garden, grasses, once established, are drought tolerant and that, friends, is a good thing (I just got June's water bill).  AAP, Cinthia. 

Written by Cinthia Milner, Garden Coach, Outside Sales, and blog writer.

BB Barns serves all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina and Tennessee.