Full Sun Ornamental Grass - Ornamental Grass For Sun Gardens

Full Sun Ornamental Grass
(Image credit: Grażyna Kulesza)

If you are looking for plants for an area of full sun, try growing sun loving ornamental grass. Full sun ornamental grass gives year round interest, is easy to grow and there are dozens of varieties on the market. Not all ornamental grasses likes full sun; some like a bit more shade, so be sure to read the following on ornamental grass for sun before planting it in full sun. 

Ornamental Grass Sun Exposure

Not all ornamental grasses are created equal. Some, like many sedges and tufted hairgrass, like partial shade, while others such as June grass and Northern sea oats prefer full shade. 

That said there are plenty of sun loving ornamental grass options. 

Ornamental Grass in Full Sun

So you want to grow ornamental grass in full sun. No problem. First you need to identify what type of habit you are looking for. Some grasses clump and some spread. Spreading grasses are usually taller with more “wow” factor while clumping grasses form short mounds. 

Almost all ornamental grasses are perennials which go dormant in the fall or winter. Some, like bamboo, are evergreen. Some are bunch grasses or tussock grasses while others form complex rhizomous systems. 

In height, ornamental grasses may run from a petite couple of inches (3 cm.) to a whopping 65 feet (20 m.) or larger. Know what to expect before investing in full sun ornamental grass. 

Types of Ornamental Grass for Sun

The sedges (Carex) usually like partial shade, but they also thrive in full sun provided they have moist soil. These evergreens are perfect for underplanting larger trees and shrubs or even container grown and are low growing sun loving ornamental grasses. 

Fescue is a very popular ornamental grass for sun, in fact it is even feature in some turf mixes. Some of the most popular include blue, California, atlas and sheep fescue. Fescue of any type is considered to be low growers. 

Indiangrass (Sorghastrum) is a group of native prairie grasses with feather seed heads that are perfect for open sunny meadows. If you are looking for a groundcover, liriope species come in spreading and clumping forms that tolerate both sun and shade. 

Other low growing ornamental grasses that grow to between 1-3 feet (30 cm. to just under a meter) for sun include fountain grass, love grass, and blue grama grass

Taller Sun Loving Ornamental Grass Varieties

Ornamental grasses that top out at 4-5 feet (1-1.5 m.) in height include switchgrasses like ‘Shenandoah Red’ or ‘Northwind’, little bluestem grasses such as ‘Prairie Blues’ or ‘Standing Ovation’ and smaller fountain grasses such as ‘Purple’, ‘Karley Rose’ or ‘Red Head’. 

The larger ornamental grasses are dramatic but remember you do need adequate room for them. Many of these larger grasses grow almost as wide as they do tall and may need staking especially in windy areas. 

If you’re looking to make a statement then try planting one of these large, 6-10 foot (2-3 m.) full sun ornamental grass specimens. Pampas grass is a classic ornamental grass revered for its splendid white (or pink in the case of pink Pampas) plumes. 

Tall Maiden grass such as ‘Goldbreeze’ is another good choice for sunloving ornamental grasses. It can be invasive however and the wider leaved cultivars may need staking. 

Lastly, Ravenna grass, often referred to as ‘Pampas grass’ erroneously is one of the tallest of the ornamental grasses for sun; often topping out at 10 feet (3 m) or more. This grass can also be invasive. 

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.