Grasses / Sedges

Grasses add structure and all-season interest to any garden. Grasses provide seed and cover for birds, and many large animals depend on grass for forage. The roots of many grasses are beneficial for erosion control and water filtering. Grasses serve as support for taller flowers, while a garden entirely of grasses is very attractive and popular for the home garden.

Sedges are plants that look much like grasses. Usually found in moist situations, they can add short-stature and texture to your home garden. Sedges are great for around ponds, stream edges and moist meadows.

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Big Bluestem Turkeyfoot

Andropogon gerardii
A long-lived prairie grass, big bluestem works well in the home landscape. Growing to a height of 4 to 8 feet, it tolerates just about any soil in full to part sun. The blades turn a russet color in fall, while the entire plant stands tall all winter, providing seed and shelter for wintering birds. Use in the garden to provide many-season points of interest.

Bottlebrush Grass

Hystrix patula
This very attractive grass with its “bottlebrush” seed heads is a must in a wooded or shaded garden. Growing to a height of 3 feet, this grass provides some greenery where few other plants will grow. Gently waving in a breeze, this grass provides some vertical height in a moist, shaded garden area.

Canada Wild Rye

Elymus canadensis
This pretty grass stands about 4 feet tall, with arching seed heads. It is very attractive in the garden or prairie, providing seed for birds in winter. The seeds have long, curving awns that add to their beauty. It grows best in very dry sandy soils but tolerates some moister soils in full to part sun.

Indian Grass

Sorghastrum nutans
A prairie grass, Indian Grass can reach a height of 6 feet. This grass grows in just about any soil in full to part sun and works well with taller wildflowers. Soft golden seed heads form in late summer, providing seed for birds in the winter. Use in the perennial border, along a fence or in an island garden for soft texture.

Little Bluestem

Andropogon scoparius
A medium-sized grass, little bluestem fits in any home landscape. Tolerant of many soils, Little Bluestem grows best in moist to dry soil in full to part sun. In early spring, the blue-green stalks appear, bearing fluffy white seed in late summer and fall. Best of all, in early autumn, the stalks turn a lovely reddish brown color and persist through the winter months. Birds seek shelter in this 2-3 foot bunchgrass.

Plains Oval Sedge

Carex brevior

Porcupine Sedge

Carex hystericina
This short sedge has wonderful seeds in late summer. Growing in moist to wet soils in full sun, it can reach a height of 1-3 feet. Adds a lovely touch of greenery to a moist area or wet meadow.

Prairie Cord Grass

Spartina pectinata
Commonly found in floodplains, ditches and moist prairies, this grass can be rather aggressive. Great for filling in areas, it is a tall grass with gently curving blades and spiked seed heads. On a pond or lake edge in full to part sun, Prairie Cord Grass provides cover for wildlife and turns a wonderful golden color in the fall.

Prairie Dropseed

Sporobolus heterolepis
This short grass forms a graceful fountain of green in a moist to dry, well-drained sunny garden. With a slight vanilla scent, this grass is a favorite for landscaping, arching two to four feet tall.

Sand Dropseed

Sporobolus cryptandurs

Side-oats Grama

Bouteloua curtipendula
This short grass prefers moist to dry well-drained sandy soil in full to part sun. It works well with shorter flowers in the home garden. The interesting seeds align themselves along one side of the 1-3 foot stem. This grass works well in a sunny, well-drained rock garden setting.

Soft-stemmed Bulrush

Scirpus validus

Spreading Oval Sedge

Carex normalis

Sweet Grass Vanilla Grass

Hierochloë odorata
A grass for wet to moist soil in full to part sun, this grass can be aggressive. It grows to about 1-2 feet, and spreads by its roots. Long used in Native American ceremonies, this grass has a wonderful vanilla scent.

Switch Grass

Panicum virgatum
This is a fabulous ornamental grass for the garden. It can become aggressive, if given space, but its beauty makes it so versatile for landscaping. It forms a large clump of graceful, airy greenery in landscaping and will create a lovely border or hedge of about 4 feet in height. Grows well in moist to dry soil in full to part sun.

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Thanks to Rick Webb (Wild Ones) for use of many of his photos.