Get it Growing: Ornamental grasses in Clallam County

If you want a pest and disease free, easy to care for, gorgeous almost any time of year addition to your garden, try an ornamental grass.

Grasses come in many varieties and can be displayed as specimens, hedges, backdrops, ground covers or potted plants. They grow fast, tolerate most soils, don’t need much water once established and come in many shapes and colors.

Visit local nurseries and see what they have available in ornamental grasses and other grass like plants. Grasses have hollow stems with solid joints. Sedges have triangular solid stems with edges and rushes have round solid stems. Grasses continue to sprout new growth from old growth stems near the base of the plant after they are pruned.

Most grasses have flowers borne in clusters that rise above the leaves. Some produce flowers in late spring or early summer and others in the fall. All are pollinated by the wind.

Know the growing habits of the grass you select before committing it to your garden. Local nurseries can help you avoid the unruly types. Be sure the grass you select will be hardy during our cold winters and will do well in your environment. Very large grasses and bamboos are often difficult to move once established.

Clumping grasses, ranging from 6 inches up to 6 feet, are relatively easy to move and blend beautifully with shrubs, perennials, annuals or vines. Running grasses, which spread by rhizome or stolon, can become real pests in the garden and might need to be contained.

Know your grasses

Most grasses love the sun but there are also types that prefer the shade or wet locations. When dry, the leaves of grasses sound like rattles in the wind. They all have a lovely motion when the wind blows … summer or winter.

Grass-like sedges have a smooth mounding growth habit, are very easy to grow and really love the local climate. Wet locations can be home to rushes, but watch how they spread! You can control a running grass or a rush by planting it in a pot, or by putting barriers in the ground to surround it. Sometimes the running types are just what you need, but be careful!

To care for any of these plants, add compost or aged manure when you plant them. No other amendments should be added, in fact, if the soil is too rich these plants can become weak and floppy. In the spring cut back the old foliage before the new foliage comes up.

Throughout the year, trim grasses to keep them looking good. Remove the seed heads to avoid self-seeding. Or, you can just leave them and let nature take its course.

In both summer and winter, ornamental grasses can add unique movement and color to your landscape.



Janet Oja is a Washington State University-certified Clallam County Master Gardener.


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