Ornamental Grasses for Fall

Every year as we enter the fall season, I realize how much I admire ornamental grasses and their feather-like textures, billowing silhouettes, and delicate seed heads. They add a nice contrast to woody and herbaceous perennials, which improves the intrigue and flow of your space. Although, ornamental grasses are great for adding year-round interest, fall is their time to shine! This is when their flower plumes (technically called inflorescences) reach their peak bloom making the plants glisten with ethereal beauty, especially when backlit by the morning or afternoon sun. Once winter arrives, these grasses continue to provide perpetual interest, as well as revive a sense of inspiration during a season of dormancy.

However, finding just the right grass can be intimidating, as there are so many great options to choose from. Below are 5 fantastic ornamental grasses for fall in southeastern United States.

5 of our Favorite Ornamental Grasses for Fall

Shenandoah Switchgrass
Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’

Shenandoah Switchgrass is a perennial grass native to North America that is a great choice for the back of borders or in meadow plantings. The leaves emerge a soft blue-green in spring, with the tips deepening from pink to burgundy in summer and to a deep wine color by mid-autumn. In addition, they have pretty, airy flowers that rise above the leaves.

Where it will grow: Zones 4-9; Hardy to -25°F (-31.7°C). Find your zone here!
Water requirement: Moderate; Fairly drought-tolerant once established
Light requirement: Full to part sun
Measurements: 3-4’h by 18″w

Carex Red Rooster
Carex buchananii ‘Red Rooster’

Carex Red Rooster is a fine-textured, evergreen with reddish-bronze foliage. It grows in a dense, tufted, arching habit. The red hues make this one of the great ornamental grasses for fall decorating. This Carex acts as a great contrast to other grasses and performs well in containers.

Where it will grow: Zone 6-9; Hardy to 0°F (-17.8°C)
Water requirement: Keep soil on the moist side even after established
Light requirement: Prefers full sun; Can handle partial shade
Measurements: 24-30″h by 12-18″w

Pink Muhly Grass
Muhlenbergia capillaris

Pink Muhly Grass is a semi-evergreen grass with thin, dark green cylindrical leaves and a haze of rosy pink, hair-like flower panicles in fall. The flowers are truly show-stopping and resemble pink clouds in the landscape. Planted in mass or in small groups throughout the garden, Pink Muhly Grass creates a shimmering pink haze with its diffuse seed heads. As long as there isn’t a hard freeze, the color will hold all winter. And even after freezing temperatures, the flower heads keep their airy shape.

Where it will grow: Zones 6-9; Hardy to -10°F (-23.3°C)
Water requirement: Moderate; Drought tolerant once established.
Light requirement: Needs at least six hours of full sun during the day
Measurements: 30″h by 30″w

Rush Corkscrew Big Twister
Juncus effusus ‘Big Twister’

The Corkscrew Rush is a delightfully unique plant with shiny, dark green stems that arise as corkscrews and uncoil as they mature and spread out in an upright form. This is a water-loving evergreen perennial that’s native to North America. It provides plenty of texture and interest in decorative containers and hard-to-landscape wet areas, like boggy spots and pond edges. The stems also make great cutting for floral arrangements.

  • Where it will grow: Zones 4-9
  • Water requirement: Keep evenly moist. Do not allow to dry out. Grow in well-drained soil. This spiral rush likes wet or moist soil and can be submerged in up to 4” of water. Can handle moist/standing water.
  • Light requirement: Full sun to part shade
  • Measurements: 18-24″h by 18-24″w

Moudry Black Fountain Grass
Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Moudry’

Moudry Black Fountain Grass is an ornamental grass with arching lush green foliage. In fall, the leaves turn yellow and orange, and feathery dark purple to black bottle-brush flowers form. It’s beautiful as a landscape accent or in mass plantings.

  • Where it will grow: Zones 5-10
  • Water requirement: Once established, water occasionally; more in extreme heat or containers
  • Light requirement: Full sun
  • Measurements: 2’h by 2’w

Ornamental grasses add color, texture, motion, and year round interest to the garden in fall. They come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and colors, which means there’s an ornamental grass out there for everyone. These grasses truly can fill almost any role within your landscape, asking very little effort in return.

Ornamental grasses are great for decorating for fall! Check out these past articles all about fall.

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