Native Ornamental Grasses

Question: Can you suggest any ornamental grasses that are native to the United States?
-Bemidji, MN

Answer: There are many native grasses with ornamental features (colorful plumes and seedheads, fine-textured leaves, and fall and winter color). In Minnesota, you should consider planting big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), side-oats grama (Bouteloua cutipendula), blue grama (B. gracilis), or prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis). All will flourish in well-drained soils.


For moister or wet areas, you can choose such native grasses as Kalm’s bromegrass (Bromus kalmii), blue-joint grass (Calamagrostis canadensis), Bebb’s sedge (Carex bebbii), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), wool grass (Scirpus cyperinus), Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans), and prairie cordgrass (Spartina pectinata).


For stream banks, ditches, and floodplains, try bottlebrush sedge (Carex comosa), tussock sedge (C. stricta), sweet grass (Hierochloe odorata), river bulrush (Scirpus fluviatilis), and dark green bulrush (Scirpus atrovirens).

Many of these are available as nursery-propagated plants. If you are unable to find a source, make plans to collect some seed this fall from plants near your home and start them indoors for planting outdoors next spring.

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One thought on “Native Ornamental Grasses

  1. I found these articles worth their weight in gold. This is my first year for ornamental grasses and I had difficulty finding good information. These articles were great. The only lacking information on some of the grasses is are there any that are suitable for container gardening. My Dr. told me to give up gardening because I would end up in a wheelchair. I can’t! So my son (hopefully) is going to build me boxes. Thank you for any additional info you can give me.

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