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It is strange to think that grass can be ornamental, but you would be surprised that they create a worthy display. Their different textures, colour profiles, and height differences will brighten up your surroundings.
Grasses are low maintenance; therefore, they do not need much attention and the evergreen varieties also provide some much needed colour in winter and grow well in pots.
Some of my favourite grasses you can grow in containers include:
1. Festuca glauca Intense Blue (Blue fescue)
Adding some colour to the garden is the Blue fescue, which is fully hardy and thus, grows in different climates making it suitable for the UK and most parts of the US. These beautiful plants are not demanding, all they need is plenty of sun and well-drained soils so for containers a mixture of potting compost mixed with grit is perfect.
They are small plants growing up to 12 inches with a 6-9 inch spread, thus also making them perfect for pots. You don’t have to transplant to different pots as they mature because the root system is not too extensive.
These plants love sunlight and with enough sunlight is when they present that vibrant blue colour. When summer comes around, spiky blooms emerge that are often bluish with hues of green. It is necessary to plant the grass in spring or summer to provide adequate time for establishment before winter.
Using mulch is essential for moisture retention, especially for younger plants that tend to get thirstier faster. When you notice old foliage, manually remove the old leaves by combing through the mass.
2. Carex oshimensis Evergold
This evergreen sedge has a distinctive foliage design that features a golden centre with green margins. The grass is popular in many UK gardens and to vouch for its uniqueness, the plant received recognition from the Royal Horticultural Society.
Flower spikes appear in summer, however, they are inconspicuous due to their brown colour. The plant won’t grow tall as the maximum height is only around 50cm with a 30cm spread. Proper drainage is crucial regardless of the soil you have because waterlogged soils encourage root rot.
It is categorised as a H7 plant for those of you in the US, this means it’s very hardy and can survive cold winters. Propagated through division is my preferred method in spring but you can also sow seeds around fall (Autumn) or spring. This low maintenance plant thrives in partial or full sunlight. Remember to remove old foliage in summer and water mature plants occasionally to prevent wilting.
3. Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ (Black mondo grass)
Identified by its dark coloured foliage, black mondo grass is part of the asparagus family. The hardy grass offers a dramatic appearance that makes it stand out from the surrounding environment. Additionally, the plant is deer/rabbit resistant and does not suffer from diseases, making them low maintenance.
This clump-forming plant is easy to grow because it thrives in different well-drained soils including clay, sand, and loam with a neutral or acidic pH, just make sure the soul is free draining. To make matters better, the grass does not require frequent watering once established as it is fairly drought resistant.
Younger plants require frequent watering until they are established otherwise they will wilt. Partial or full sunlight is essential for proper growth and is responsible for the foliage colour. If you want the plant to display its distinct jet black colour, place the plant where it can access full sunlight.
Size-wise, these plants do not grow very tall, but they have a wide spread. Ultimately, you can expect a general height of 20cm with an estimated spread of 30cm, but the eventual size can be smaller. The Award of Garden Merit holder blooms in the summer, presenting racemes of delicate pale pink/whitish flowers that eventually give way to purple berries.
Read next: Best plants for pots all year round
4. Cortaderia selloana ‘Pumila’ (Dwarf pampas grass)
Another stunning grass you can plant in containers is the Cortaderia selloana ‘Pumila’, a dwarf variety of the popular but large original pampas grass. Pampas grass is among the popular ones due to the architectural aesthetic it offers thanks to its creamy white plumes. While it is not a tall plant, with an average height of 1.5 meters, its beauty makes up for its short stature.
The white plumes contrast well with the long green foliage, almost giving a feathery appearance. When you plant these evergreen grasses, place them where they can receive plenty of sun. Pampas grass is not fussy in terms of soil as it can grow in clay, loam, sand or chalk; however, the soil has to have good drainage.
Removing old growth in spring assists in preventing the new growth from suffocating. The zone-6 hardy plant has received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society to attest to its quality.
It blooms in summer displaying pink or silvery panicles and the plumes can be cut, dried, and used for ornamental purposes in flower arrangements. You can easily propagate these showy plants through division to create an unforgettable display.
5. Carex buchananii (Leatherleaf sedge)
If you are looking for a tufted grass for growing in containers, the Carex buchananii is worth considering. The zone-5 hardy plant grows in different kinds of well-drained soil, regardless of pH. With a maximum height of 90cm and a spread of the same dimensions, the brown-orange coloured plant will grow in medium-sized pots without regular transplants.
Its striking colour, triangular stems, and long strap-shaped foliage will make a good display in any garden. The clumping New Zealand native plant doesn’t need much care to thrive, as it is normally disease and pest free. It blooms in summer, producing green/ brown flower spikes that are hard to miss.
In terms of care, remove old foliage in summer to promote proper ventilation. If you cultivate the plant through seeds, start them in a cold frame in spring before moving them where they can access full/partial sunlight.
Propagation is also possible in summer when the weather is warmer and the plant has time to re-establish. Aphids do attack these plants; therefore, seek treatment before they increase in population and slowly kill off the plant.
Read next: Best plants for pots and shade
6. Stipa tenuissima Pony Tails (Mexican feather grass)
Introducing the wispy looking Mexican feather grass that adds a luxurious feel to the surroundings. The deciduous grass blooms in summer, displaying brown/green panicles that eventually turn to a blonde hue. It is hardy, classified under zone-4 and thus it can survive harsh winters with temperatures dipping below -30 degrees Fahrenheit.