Types Of Dwarf Ornamental Grass – Tips For Growing Short Ornamental Grasses

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By Mary H. Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

Ornamental grasses are gorgeous, eye-catching plants that provide color, texture and motion to the landscape. The only problem is that many types of ornamental grasses are too large for small to midsize yards. The answer? There are many types of dwarf ornamental grass that fit nicely into a smaller garden, but provide all the benefits of their full-size cousins. Let’s learn a little more about short ornamental grasses.

Ornamental Dwarf Grass

Full-size ornamental grass can tower 10 to 20 feet (3-6 m.) over the landscape, but compact ornamental grass generally tops out at 2 to 3 feet (60-91 cm.), making some of these smaller types of compact ornamental grass perfect for a container on a balcony or patio.

Here are eight popular dwarf ornamental grass varieties for smaller gardens – just a handful of the many short ornamental grasses currently on the market.

Golden Variegated Japanese Sweet Flag (Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’) – This sweet flag plant reaches a height of around 8-10 inches (20-25 cm.) and width of10-12 inches (25-30 cm.). The lovely variegated green/gold foliage looks great in either full sun or partial shade settings.

Elijah Blue Fescue (Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’) – Some blue fescue varieties can get somewhat large, but this one only attains a height of 8 inches (20 cm.) with a 12-inch (30 cm.) spread. The silvery blue/green foliage dominates in full sun locations.

Variegated Liriope (Liriope muscari ‘Variegated’ – Liriope, also known as monkey grass, is a common addition to many landscapes, and while it doesn’t get that large, the variegated green with yellow striped plants can add that extra bit of pizzazz you’re looking for in the smaller space, reaching a height of 6-12 inches (15-30 cm.) with a similar spread.

Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon japonica) – Like liriope, mondo grass retains a much smaller size, 6 inches (15 cm.) by 8 inches (20 cm.), and is a great addition to areas lacing in space.

Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepsis) – Prairie dropseed is a fascinating ornamental grass that tops out at 24-28 inches (.5 m.) in height with a 36- to 48-inch (1-1.5 m.) spread.

Bunny Blue Sedge (Carex laxiculmis ‘Hobb’) – Not all sedge plants make suitable specimens to the garden, but this one creates a nice statement with its pleasing blue-green foliage and small size, typically around 10-12 inches (25-30 cm.) with similar spread.

Blue Dune Lyme Grass (Leymus arenarius ‘Blue Dune’) – The silvery blue/grey foliage of this attractive ornamental grass will shine when given partial shade to full shade conditions. Blue Dune lyme grass reaches a mature height of 36-48 inches (1 -1.5 m.) and width of 24 inches (.5 cm.).

Little Kitten Dwarf Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Little Kitten’) – Maiden grass makes a lovely addition to nearly any garden and this smaller version, only 18 inches (.5 m.) by 12 inches (30 cm.) is the perfect fit for small gardens or containers.

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