Best Ornamental Grasses For Texas And The South

Several clumps of Mexican feather grass growing in the sunlight
(Image credit: egschiller)

If you are looking for a dramatic yet low maintenance plant option for your landscape in the southern United States, look no further than ornamental grasses. Ornamental grasses for Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and other southern states are a terrific option as they mimic the surrounding prairies and are often adapted to the area. If you are interested in ornamental grasses for Oklahoma and other southern states, keep reading.

About Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses may be native, hybrid, suited for sun or shade, vary in height from low to incredibly tall, and come in a variety of colors and textures. Ornamental grasses are also one of the few plants that can be incorporated into the landscape that give almost year-round interest to the garden.

Ornamental grasses are categorized as either warm or cool season. Their active growth period will tell you if a grass is cool or warm season. If a grass begins to grow in late winter to early spring when conditions are damp and temps cool, the grass is a cool season grass. These grasses also flower in late spring to early summer.

Grasses that begin to grow later in the spring with most growth occurring during the warm, dry summers are warm season grasses. This type of grass likes it warm with ideal temps 80 to 95 degrees F. (27-35 C.) and will bloom in the late summer.

Grasses have many uses in the landscape. Taller varieties can stand alone or make excellent natural screens or windbreaks. Smaller grasses can be planted en masse or in small groupings with or without annual flowers. Both have their place in rock gardens, around water features, and in the native or cutting garden. Many ornamental grasses also do well in containers.

Ornamental Grasses for Oklahoma and other Southern States

There are about 10,000 species of grass accustomed to a variety of conditions which means there are likely plenty for you to choose from. They can be planted almost any time of year but ideally cool season grasses should be planted in the late summer and fall and warm season in late spring to early summer.

Before purchasing ornamental grasses in Texas or other areas of the south, take the time to identify what need you want the grass to fill. Will it be near water features, in sun or shade, container grown, used as a privacy screen, for erosion control, or for restoration? Also look to see if the grass is an annual or perennial for your region.

Dry Shade Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses suited to Kansas areas of light shade include Elijah blue fescue, oat grass, St. Augustine grass, and fountain grass.

For heavily shaded areas choose sedge, sweet flag, bluestem, reed grass, bent awn plume grass, lilyturf, mondograss, switch grass, ribbon grass, northern sea oats, papyrus or paper plant, bottlebrush, woodrush, Hakonechloa cultivars, horsetail, New Zealand flax, or purple top.

Ornamental grasses suited to hot and dry conditions include side oats grama, blue grama, bloodgrass, foxtail barley, oat grass, most blue fescue cultivars, oriental fountain grass, Mexican feather grass, switch grass, big bluestem, sedge, lovegrass, blue lyme grass, ruby grass, feathertop, ribbon grass, and purple top to name a few.

These are just a metaphorical handful of the options available in ornamental grasses for the southern United States. Be sure to do your research and check for annual, evergreen, water loving, drought tolerant, height and breadth, color, self-sowing or invasive, and seasonal interest before committing to a purchase. Your local extension office as well as nursery can help lead you to ornamental grasses suited to your area.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.