By Julie Martens Forney
Some perennials earn their keep, and then some. Ornamental grasses are true workhorse plants that boast low maintenance and good looks. One of my favorites is purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’). It’s not hardy in the Mid-Atlantic, so I plant it in pots every year. The burgundy leaves pair beautifully with white Profusion zinnias, silver licorice plant, and bright-pink phlox (above).
Ornamental grasses add movement to the garden; their leaves and seed heads bounce and bauble on every breeze. These low-maintenance perennials also infuse plantings with amazing texture and multiseason interest.
Design: Grasses in Containers
When you use ornamental grasses in containers, remember basic container garden design: Your thriller plant (tallest plant) should be roughly 1.5 times the height of the container. You won’t go wrong when you draft ornamental grasses to fill this role. Purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’) is perfect in this urn planter.
Bronze sweet potato vine acts as the spiller plant in this container. Other grasses that work in container gardens include pink-toned muhly grass, Little Bunny fountain grass, and blue fescue.
Color: Grasses in the Garden
Count on ornamental grasses in planting beds to add height and movement. Choose a grass on the order of variegated purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Fireworks’) and you also add color to plantings.
Variegated purple fountain grass bursts in a cornucopia of hues: green, pink, burgundy, rose, and white.
It pairs beautifully with orange, yellow, or blue flowers.
Winter Interest: Grasses in Containers
Use spent potted ornamental grasses to create a winter container garden. After frost tints my potted purple fountain grass a buff color, I use that grass to play a thriller role in a winter container garden.
I remove any spent annuals and shove stems of evergreens into soil in front of the grass. On my front porch the pot looks great through a Mid-Atlantic winter.
What are some of your favorite ornamental grasses? Share your thoughts below.
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