Hardy perennial ornamental grasses can make a dramatic addition to the home landscape. Here are some of the beauties we've found most appreciated by our customers. In addition to plants or seed of the individual species listed below, available seasonally, Payne's sells many grass seed mixtures for various uses.
Andropogon gerardii (Big Bluestem; Turkeyfoot): 3-5'H x 3-5'W. Midwest prairie clump-grass, adaptable to a wide range of soils and moisture conditions in full sun to light shade. Thin blue-green leaves sport flowerheads composed of 3-4 purplish 4" spikes, arranged like the claws on a turkey's foot. Leaves turn bronze or copper in fall. Cut dried stems to ground in late winter, before new spring growth begins. For Little Bluestem, see Schizachyrium scoparium below.
Bouteloua gracilis (Blue Grama; Mosquito Grass): 1.5-2'H x 1'W. Native to the Rocky Mountains, this tough, heat- and drought-tolerant grass with a dense, 2' deep root mass, makes narrow-leaved, grey-green clumps adorned with pretty, one-sided, curving, eyelash-like purplish flowers in summer that whiten in winter. Planted close together, plants can make a nice low-water lawn; sow seed in fall. Needs full sun.
Bromus anomalus (Nodding Brome; formerly Bromopsis anomala): 2'H x 2'W. Drought tolerant U.S. native with relaxed green leaves and yellow spring flowers that turn into decorative nodding seedheads. Nutritious cattle forage; birds love the seeds. Prefers full sun to part shade, well-drained soil, and moderate water once established.
Buchloe dactyloides (Buffalo Grass): Rocky Mountain native, a favorite for low-water lawns. Warm-season perennial grey-green stolon-spreading sod-forming grass prefers dense well-drained dry clay in full sun. Green all summer and turns straw-colored as it enters fall dormancy. Insect- and disease-resistant. Requires a full season to establish itself and has infrequent mowing requirements (it will stay around 4" tall if grown on the dry side). Makes a great pasture and range grass, too.
Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster' (Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass; syn. C. x a. 'Stricta'): 2-3'H x 3-4'W; 6' tall in flower. Erect, arching clump of bright green leaves, adorned in summer with tall, winter-persistent spikes of feathery-purple-green flowers fading from yellow to buff. Spikes are often used dried in large winter arrangements. Prefers regular moisture in full to part sun; cut back in late winter before new growth emerges. Native to Eurasia.
Deschampsia cespitosa (Tufted Hair Grass): 1-2'H x 2'W; to 4'+ tall in flower. Narrow dark green leaves in tufted clumps, adorned with airy green to greenish gold flowerheads that turn straw color in winter. Can take full sun to part shade, so makes a good grass for planting under deciduous trees. Requires regular water.
Eragrostis trichodes (Sand Love Grass): 3'H x 3' wide; to 4' in flower. Deep green mounds turn bronze red in fall; exquisite airy clustes of soft rose-pink blooms appear late summer and persist into winter. Prefers full sun, well-drained soil, and medium to low water once established. Cut back to a few inches tall in late winter. Deer resistant.
Erianthus ravennae (Hardy Pampas Grass; Plume Grass): 5'H x 8'W; to 12' in flower. Dramatic, upright, arching mounds of grey-green leaves age to orange, tan, purple and beige in fall; tall spikes topped with purply-silver flowers fade to white. Needs full sun, well-drained soil, and moderate water once established. Very popular as a substitute for true pampas grass, which is not hardy in Santa Fe. Birds are attracted to the seedheads.
Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ (Elijah Blue Fescue): 8"H x 10"W. Dwarf clump grass from Europe, intensely silver-blue, terrific for borders and accents. Moderate water requirements. Finches love the seeds that form in fall. Other forms of Blue Fescue grow taller, to 1.5'.
Festuca rubra (Creeping Red Fescue): Rhizome-spreading native of Europe and North America, with narrow green blades that can tolerate some shade. Needs regular water. Makes a great lawn!
Festuca trachyphylla (Sheep's Fescue): 1' x 1'+. Dense tufts of fine grey to grey-green leaves adorned with small purplish late summer flowers. Needs regular water. Makes a useful forage and meadow grass.
Helictotrichon sempervirens (Blue Oat Grass; syn. Avena sempervirens): 2-3'H x 2-3'W. Fountainlike sprays of bright, blue-gray, narrow, semi-evergreen leaves are adorned in spring by 2'+ high stems of straw-colored flowers. Thrives in rich, well-drained soils with regular water, though it can survive on less water once it is established.
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ (Morning Light Eulalia or Japanese Silver Grass): 3-4'H x 3-4'W; to 5-6' tall in flower. Beautiful arching fine-textured green leaves margined narrowly in white give this grass a silvery appearance. In late summer to early fall it sports coppery flower-plumes. Sport of M. s. 'Gracillimus'. Prefers regular moisture.
Miscanthus sinensis 'Strictus' (Banded Porcupine Grass): 4-6'H x 3-4'W; 5-7' tall in flower. Half-inch wide, 1-2’ gold-banded green stems are stiffly erect and striking. Copper flowers in September turn to a fluffy tan after drying; may require staking to avoid floppage. Prefers regular moisture.
Muhlenbergia rigens (Deer Grass): 4'H x 4'W; to 6' tall in bloom. Dense, tight, bright green clumps sport slender yellow to purplish fall flower spikes that start out upright, then lean attractively. Takes full sun to light shade; tolerates sandy or clay soils; and does best with moderate water.
Nassella tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass; formerly Stipa tenuissima): 2'H x 2-3'W. Exquisite billows of green shiver and flow in the slightest breeze. Narrow green leaves in clumps; thin summer flowering stems topped with clouds of silvery -green flowers aging to a decorative straw color in winter. Highly adaptable water requirements; a good grass for xeriscapes once established. Very lovely in container gardens. Native to Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico.
Panicum virgatum (Switch Grass): 2-4'H x 2-4'W, to 7' tall in flower. Narrow green to grey-green leaves in arching clumps, adorned in summer by tall, slender pinkish flower clusters that fade from white to brown. Leaves turn yellow in fall, fading to beige; both leaves and flowers persist into winter. 'Heavy Metal' is a dwarf variety, to 5' tall in flower, with blue-green leaves that turn bright gold in fall.
Phalaris arundinacea picta (Ribbon Grass; Gardener's Garters): 2-3'H x 2-3'W. Tough grass native to the Northern Hemisphere, with beautiful deep green leaves striped the long way in white; they turn buff in fall. White to pale brown flower custers in summer. A rampant spreader in moist soils, adaptable to full sun or part shade; needs regular water to look its best. Ideal for large containers. 'Feesey' (aka "Feesey's Form", 'Strawberries and Cream') is a dwarf form 1.5-2'H, the stripes of which flush pink in cool weather.
Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem; formerly Andropogon scoparius): 2-4'H x 1-2'W. Narrow bright green to bluish leaves age light brown to dark red; attractive silver fall bloom spikes. Prefers full sun and well-drained soil with regular water. Birds love the autumn seeds. Keep mulches several inches away from plant base. U.S. native.