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Grow These Ornamental Grasses with Beautiful Fall Color

Grow These Ornamental Grasses with Beautiful Fall Color

By Justin Hancock, Monrovia Horticultural Craftsman
Photographs courtesy of Monrovia

As summer shifts to fall, ornamental grasses come into their prime. Grasses offer late season color, drama, and movement to your landscape. Plus, you’ll enjoy watching wildlife alight on their plumes from summer through winter.

Beautiful as accents or en masse, you can grow ornamental grasses with confidence in most zones.

Here are three fall favorites with companion planting advice, so you can pair your ornamental grasses with stunning shrubs for easy-care and multi-season beauty.

Breezy Shenandoah Switch Grass

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Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah'

Shenandoah Switch Grass (Zone 4-9) is an upright grass prized for its swaying architectural foliage. In spring, fast growing green leaves emerge with red tips, then darken through summer. Come fall, they blend into rich burgundy and gold tones. Airy reddish-pink panicles float atop the vibrant foliage from summer into winter.

Can’t find ‘Shenandoah’? Try Hot Rod Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum 'Hot Rod') or Northwind Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum 'Northwind').

Companion Plants for Shenandoah Switch Grass:

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Hydrangea paniculata 'SMHPMWMH'

Candy Apple™ Hydrangea

These two easy-care plants look stunning together. The hydrangea’s cloud-like flowerheads combine beautifully with switch grass’s misty-looking plumes.

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Pinus mugo pumilio 'Compact Select'

Compact Mugo Pine

Not everything in your garden should clamor for attention. Mugo pines are fuss-free, deep green plants that allow the switch grass to be the star of the show.

Vivid Plumetastic® Pink Muhly Grass

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Muhlenbergia capillaris 'Irvine'

Plumetastic® Pink Muhly Grass (Zone 7-10) blooms into a sensational show of pinkish purple plumes atop upright, gently arching green foliage. This grass absolutely glitters and shines in warm autumn light. You’ll especially enjoy it when planted so the vivid grass plumes poof and puff like clouds backlit by afternoon sun.

Can’t find Plumetastic? Try Blue Heaven Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium 'MinnblueA’) or Karley Rose Oriental Fountain Grass (Pennisetum orientale 'Karley Rose').

Companion Plants for Plumetastic® Pink Muhly Grass:

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Vaccinium corymbosum 'FLX-2'

Bountiful Blue® Blueberry

This edible shrub’s blue-green fruit and foliage complement the muhly’s pink plumes in summer. Come autumn, the blueberry’s purple-red foliage is equally striking.

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Olea europaea'Montra'

Little Ollie® Dwarf Olive

Leave this durable shrub untrimmed for a natural, wind-swept Mediterranean look. Sheared, the olive can anchor your pink muhly grass in a formal garden.

Shimmery Variegated Japanese Silver Grass

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Miscanthus sinensis 'Variegatus'

Variegated Japanese Silver Grass (Zone 4-9) dances in the summer sun, but its silver-white plumes are especially striking when autumn rains and the late season light pours in. Shimmery plumes top arching, variegated foliage featuring dark green shades highlighted by creamy white stripes.

Can’t find Variegated Japanese Silver Grass? Try Cabaret Japanese Silver Grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Cabaret'), Morning Light Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning Light'), or Little Zebra Dwarf Japanese Silver Grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Little Zebra').

Companion Plants for Variegated Japanese Silver Grass:

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Physocarpus opulifolius 'Hoogi021'

Little Joker® Ninebark

The ninebark’s foliage pairs beautifully with this miscanthus’s variegated summer foliage and fall finery. Enjoy a different personality each season.

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Spiraea japonica 'Walplum'

Walberton's® Plumtastic Spirea

Plant this small shrub in front of the variegated Japanese silver grass, where its darker foliage and dark pink flowers will contrast with the creamy white grass blade edges.


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By Natalie Carmolli, Proven Winners® ColorChoice®
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It’s not time to hang up your rake until the last of the gardening tasks of the season are complete. Read this article that lists ten essential fall tasks to finish before the snow flies.


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