Fall Color For Ornamental Grasses


Here is what you can expect for color in Zone 6 in the US for fall favorite grasses.  

Pink Muhly Grass – Muhlenbergia capillaries

The plumes give clouds of pink mist in the fall, but the cold of winter turns the foliage brown by November in zone 6. 

In warmer climates in the southern US, such as zone 7, muhly grass can be evergreen through the entire winter.

Even when it is evergreen, still prune back in the early spring before new growth, as the last year’s growth will be a bit tattered and tired by this time.  The fresh new foliage will take off and be gorgeous until the following early spring’s pruning.

Maiden grass – Miscanthus gracillimus 

Cool-weather and a light frost will bring out a wonderful red, burgundy color, but as you get hard freezing weather, it will kill back that growth and turn it tan, both in zone 6 and 8  Leave it up to give great structure and movement for the winter, trim back to a few inched above the crown in the spring, or trim it back after it has completely gone dormant.

Dwarf Maiden Grass – Miscanthus sinensis

Dwarf Maiden grass will give you golden, some red, and tan colors after frosts. In the winter you can get some short structure and some movement in the winter garden, but the color will be in tans and browns, both in zone 6 and in zone 8.  You can either prune it back to just above the crown in the fall, if you want to hide it with winter growers such as pansies, or leave the structure in the neutral colors of tan, and prune back in the early spring before new growth gets started.

Lemon Grass – Cymbopogon citratus

Click here to read – Scientific basis for the therapeutic use of Cymbopogon citratus, stapf (Lemon grass)

Lemongrass is one of my favorite grasses, completely worth growing even if it is grown as an annual in your area, grow in a large container on your deck where you can reach out and squeeze a handful of foliage and smell the lemony scent.  So fresh.  This is also the same plant that is used in Thai cooking.  As a bonus, it also helps repel mosquitoes.  Straight green, fresh, graceful foliage, easily gets to 3 ft high in a year and just as wide.  Cooler weather will show this striped coloration, but a hard freeze will turn the foliage tan for the winter.  You will still have the movement in the breeze, but you most likely will not get new growth in the spring if it received a hard freeze.  It will need replacing in the spring if nor protected from a hard freeze in the winter.

Karl Forester – Calamagrostis × acutiflora

A very nice, very hardy ornamental grass. When I lived in zone 4, it was one of the few ornamental grasses we could grow as perennial, and the tall strong clumps give some great tall fall and winter presence and movement. In the winter, the color will be tall tan. Even in zone 6 where there are so many choices for ornamental grasses, Karl Forester remains a favorite!

Japanese sedge – Oshimensis sedge ‘Evergold’ and ‘Everest’

Yes, this is not a true grass, it is a sedge, but it looks like, and is used as, a grass in the landscape.

This is a favorite of mine as it is evergreen and looks fresh and fabulous all winter as well as all summer in both zone 6 and 8.  I use it all the time in a mixed planter and am always amazed at how fresh and crisp it looks when everything else starts to look bedraggled.  A must-have!  Drought tolerant, wet tolerant, shade tolerant, fairly sun tolerant…you know who you are when you have too much sun for these guys to require shade.  If everyone near you is talking about what can tolerate the sun, and most sun plants are wanting sun in the afternoon…this is you.  Give them some shade.

For more fall planters, click here to see Unexpected Fall Potted Plants For Shade

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