Ornamental Grasses Add to Fall Splendor

By Shaun Moser, Conservation Garden Park

Ornamental grasses continue to gain popularity in Utah landscapes. They really stand out in the late summer and fall with their beautiful leaves and flowers. They also add some unique visual interest when they sway back and forth in the breeze.

Ornamental grasses are used heavily at Conservation Garden Park because they are easy to maintain and require very little water. They are also perennial, which means we only plant them once and they regrow every year. To maintain ornamentals, we cut back the dead grass blades in the late fall or early spring to a stump that is about 3-6 inches tall depending on the variety. Maintenance timing is an induvial choice based on when you have the time to do it, but cutting them back is important—it accommodates their new growth in the spring.

Here are some of our favorite ornamental grasses for Utah:

  • Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gold Bar’– Gold Bar Maiden Grass

This is one of our new favorites at the conservation garden. It has beautiful yellow and green banded leaves that look amazing with some back lighting. It also stays more compact than standard Maiden Grass, only reaching 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide.

  • Muhlenbergia reverchonii – Undaunted Ruby Muhly Grass

Most Muhly Grasses are not hardy in Utah and die during the winter. This selection is tougher than the others and just as beautiful in the late summer/fall. It has green grass blades with pink flower spikes that really stand out in the landscape.

  • Saccharum ravennae- Ravenna Grass

This grass towers over the rest and is one of the best-looking plants in a fall landscape. It grows up to 12 feet tall and 4 feet wide, and only takes a few years to do so. If you are looking for some privacy from your neighbors or just a great statement plant that comes back year after year, this is a great way to go. Because of its size, a power hedger works best to trim this one back each year.

  • Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’– Variegated Maiden Grass

There are many different varieties of Maiden Grass but this one is so striking it’s hard to leave it off this list. Just like all other varieties it will get seed heads, but what really makes this grass exceptional are its white and green variegated leaf blades.

  • Schizachyrium scoparium- Little Bluestem

This short, clumping ornamental grass with blue-green foliage stands just 2-3 feet tall, making it a perfect size for a parkstrip. What really makes this plant stand out is the amazing flaming orange color that it turns in the fall.

  • Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’- Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass

This was the 2001 Perennial Plant of the Year, and for good reason. This ornamental grass is 6 feet tall, so it shouldn’t be planted in a row, but rather spaced out as an accent. It adds a stunning vertical affect to any landscape or park strip.


Want to see some of these beauties in their full fall splendor? Visit the Conservation Garden Park during its winter hours: Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.