7 Stunning Ornamental Grasses for Winter Interest

One of the best things about ornamental grasses is that they are always interesting to look at in the garden, no matter what time of year it is. In winter, when many other plants are looking a little worse for wear, grasses come into their own. In this post, we’ll look at 7 beautiful ornamental grasses for winter interest in your garden.

Why Choose Ornamental Grass for a Winter Garden?

Beautiful decorative large ornamental grass in park in winter day during snowfall natural background
ID 208136045 © Joanna Redesiuk | Dreamstime.com

Ornamental grasses are ideal for use in winter gardens, as they provide attractive form and texture. While some varieties might become dormant in the winter months, their presence in the garden can still be enjoyed.

From dried, fluffy seed heads to tall arching fronds that sparkle with frost in the winter sun. Ornamental grasses can provide magical colours and shapes within even the most baron landscape. And some grasses have evergreen foliage, providing some welcome colour to cheer up your beds and borders.

7 Ornamental Grasses for Winter Interest

Korean Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis Brachytricha)

Calamagrostis brachytricha ornamental grass in autumn
ID 70686372 © Lianem | Dreamstime.com

This tall, upright grass has lovely golden-brown seed heads with a tinge of purple, that stay on the stems throughout winter. As well as providing food for birds and other wildlife it also looks great in a mixed border or can be grown as a specimen plant. It’s sometimes know as ‘Diamond Grass’, due to the way it catches the morning dew creating a sparkling display.

Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis × Acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’)

Feather Reed Grass growing in Rockford Illinois - Calamagrostis x acutiflora `Karl Foerster
ID 198083803 © Gerald D. Tang | Dreamstime.com

One of the most popular ornamental grasses, this has tall, arching stems and airy plumes in shades of pink and brown. It’s a great addition to any garden, providing winter interest as well as beautiful flowers in summer.

Japanese Sedge (Carex Morrowii)

Carex Morrowii brightening a shade garden
ID 250667630 © Hidayat Ega | Dreamstime.com

This low-growing grass has an elegant, fountain-like form and produces interesting seed heads in autumn. It also has brightly stiped evergreen leaves, so it’s perfect for brightening up shady corners or adding texture to a sunny border.

Blue Oat Grass (Helictotrichon Sempervirens)

Close-up of the bush blue oat grass Helictotrichon sempervirens with bluish leaves
ID 112373086 © Sergei Kozminov | Dreamstime.com

With its stunning evergreen blue and silvery foliage, this hardy grass looks great throughout the winter months. It also has attractive feathery seed heads growing in tufts during summer. It can be grown on its own as a specimen plant or in groups for contrast and texture.

Pampas Grass (Cortaderia Selloana)

Close up, pale pampas grass Cortaderia selloana curves in the wind against a blurred blue sky background, on a winter sunny day
ID 256256116 © Denys Shapovalov | Dreamstime.com

This is one of the most recognisable ornamental grasses and it makes a dramatic addition to any garden. Its tall, silvery-white plumes are a sight to behold in winter and make an eye-catching feature. It’s important to keep this grass under control, as it can become invasive if left unchecked.

Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium Latifolium)

Northern Sea Oats with drooping brown leaves in autumn - Chasmanthium latifolium
ID 137920883 © Iva Villi | Dreamstime.com

This attractive grass has a perfect arching habit, with long drooping stems covered in tiny seed heads. It adds texture, movement and colour to the garden all year round, but is particularly eye-catching if the dormant foliage is left in winter, with its copper and bronze plumes.

Switch Grass (Panicum Virgatum)

Panicum virgatum Rehbraun switch grass
ID 200971576 © Sangeeta K | Dreamstime.com

This tall, upright grass has stunning summer seed heads in shades of pink and brown, that turn golden through autumn and remain on the stems throughout winter. It’s perfect for providing interest in a sunny border or meadow garden. It also looks great when planted in large drifts, giving the garden an airy, breezy feel.

Caring for Ornamental Grasses in Winter

Ornamental grasses are generally low maintenance, but there are a few things you can do to ensure they stay healthy and look their best throughout the winter months.

Should I Trim Ornamental Grass in Winter?

It’s generally best not to trim ornamental grasses in the winter, as they can become damaged by frost. The grass is unlikely to regrow during this dormant phase, so you’ll also miss out on being able to enjoy the plant’s unique appearance at this time of year.

If you do want to cut back your grasses, wait until late spring when temperatures are warmer and any risk of frost has passed.

Mulching Ornamental Grass for Winter

A layer of mulch around the base of ornamental grasses can help to protect their roots during the winter months. Mulch also helps to retain moisture, which is especially important in dry spells, when plants may struggle to absorb enough water from the soil.

Keep Off the Grass!

Try to avoid walking on your grass, as this can damage delicate stems and leave them more susceptible to winter damage.

Are Ornamental Grasses Hardy in Cold Weather?

Most ornamental grasses are hardy (can tolerate the cold) and will stand up to the winter weather with minimal damage. Like most plants, you might find some varieties that will need a bit of extra care.

There are many ways to protect your plants in winter, such as mulching or covering plants with a protective material, such as gardening fleece.

Some grasses may struggle in areas that experience particularly cold winters, especially in exposed areas with harsh winds. If you know your hardiness zone, be sure to check the plant label or online information to make sure that the variety you choose is suitable for your local climate.

Wooden box planted with ornamental grasses and colourful heather in the winter
ID 234413350 © Michal Paulus | Dreamstime.com

Final Thoughts

Ornamental grasses are an invaluable addition to any garden; providing interest all year round with their elegant foliage and beautiful flower spikes or heads. In winter, they come into their own – adding structure and movement when everything else is looking a little bedraggled!

These seven ornamental types of grass will all bring colour and texture to your garden during the winter months. Plant them together for maximum impact or use them as individual specimens – either way, you’ll be sure to enjoy their beauty for many years to come!

What ornamental grass is growing in your winter garden? Any favourite varieties? Let us know in the comments!

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