Ornamental pink muhly grass
(Image credit: Tingting Wu)

Ornamental grasses for southeast states have to be able to withstand high summer temperatures. To enjoy these beauties, choose a species and variety that suits your local soil, sunlight, and moisture conditions. Although listed by state, there is a lot of overlap and most of these ornamental grasses will do well throughout the southeast.

Ornamental Grasses – Florida

  • Beach panic grass --Try this type of panic grass in your sandy, beachy areas of a garden. It is a clumping grass that grows no taller than 2 feet (61 cm) tall and prefers full sun. It has a high tolerance for salt.
  • Palm grass -- Palm grass is evergreen in Florida and lends a tropical look to the garden. The wide, pleated leaves resemble small palms. Flower spikes are green and cylindrical. This grass grows up to 10 feet (3 m) tall.
  • Fakahatchee grass -- Also called gamma grass, this is a native grass that is easy to grow and that will tolerate drought and partial shade. The flowers are of particular interest. They extend above the foliage on thin stems.

Ornamental Grasses – Georgia

  • Panic grass -- Both beaked and redtop panic grass are native in Georgia and grow 2 to 4 feet (61 cm to 1 m) tall. These are good choices for wet soil areas along swamps or streams, but they also tolerate dry soil.
  • Upland river oats -- Another native, this grass produces pretty flowers on curved stems that look nice in dried arrangements. The soil should be moist and rich. Upland river oats reseed very readily.
  • Eastern bottlebrush -- This grass tolerates some shade and is a good choice for meadow gardens and areas with moist but well-draining soil. Bottlebrush is notable for its spiky flower clusters.
  • Blackseed speargrass -- Choose this native grass for dry areas and rocky soils. It forms clumps up to 3 feet (91 cm) tall and black seeds that seem to float over the foliage.

Ornamental Grasses – South Carolina

  • Big bluestem -- Big bluestem is native throughout much of the U.S. and grows well in all of the southeast. It can be up to 8 feet (2 m) tall and forms narrow clumps with a pretty reddish fall color. Varieties include one with light blue leaves and another streaked with red.
  • Fountain grass --This ornamental grass is known for its graceful shape and bottlebrush flowers that range from cream to light pink. Different varieties of fountain grass offer smaller sizes and different colors.
  • Japanese forest grass -- This grass grows in dense mounds that cascade gracefully. It only grows to about 1.5 feet (46 cm) tall. Japanese forest grass makes a nice groundcover for shady areas and comes in varieties with variegation and stripes.

Ornamental Grasses – North Carolina

  • Muhly grass -- Choose Muhlenbergia capillaris for dry areas of the garden. Very drought tolerant, this native grass comes in a few cultivars. Choose the pink variety for feathery, rose colored blooms in fall.
  • Feather reed grass -- Thriving in the cool season, feather reed grass forms clumps up to 4 feet (1 m) tall. It loves full sun and tolerates drought. Cultivars include taller plants and striped or variegated foliage.
  • Appalachian sedge -- While not technically a grass, this sedge is grass-like and native to the state. It grows in short, dense clumps and makes a nice groundcover in shady areas.

Ornamental Grasses – Virginia

  • Indiangrass -- Sorghatrum nutans is native in Virginia and is often called yellow Indian grass for its golden flowers and seeds. It can grow up to 8 feet (2 m) tall and has a pretty fall color.
  • Switchgrass -- Growing as tall as 10 feet (3 m), switchgrass grows in clumps and produces lacy, attractive seed clusters that are red to purple in fall. The stems turn bright yellow in fall.
  • Tufted hairgrass -- This native grass grows in mountain meadows and prefers moist soil and partial shade. Tufted hairgrass starts out purplish green and fades in color for interesting seasonal variation.
  • Sideoats grama -- This is the state grass of Texas, but it is also native to Virginia. It is named for its oat-like seeds that hang from a tall stalk. The flowers are pretty in bloom.
Mary Ellen Ellis

Mary Ellen Ellis has been gardening for over 20 years. With degrees in Chemistry and Biology, Mary Ellen's specialties are flowers, native plants, and herbs.