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Perfect perennials

Ornamental grasses are easy to grow and look attractive all year

'Karl Foerster' feather reed grassNorth Dakota is a land of prairie grasses. Our soils and climate are made for growing grasses. That’s one reason why ornamental grasses are perfect for us. They are loaded with other great features too:

Ornamental grasses are easy to maintain. They rarely need watering or fertilizing. Just cut the plants back every spring—that’s it!

They have almost no pest problems. Insects or diseases rarely bother ornamental grasses. Believe it or not, deer don’t like them! That’s too good to be true!

They grow fast. Many grasses will grow up to their mature height, even up to 8 feet, within two growing seasons.

They look good all year. You’ll enjoy a changing canvas of color from the emergence of tender grass in the spring to a display of roughened textures and brilliant colors in fall and winter. As a bonus, their seed heads attract lively and colorful birds to our yards.

‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass is one of the most popular perennials grown today (see photo). Plants grow 5 feet tall and provide a striking vertical dimension to flower beds. Its carefree habit has made it a staple in low-maintenance landscapes. Other popular feather reed grasses include ‘Overdam’ and ‘Avalanche’, each with eye-catching variegated leaves.

‘Northwind’ switchgrass was awarded the prestigious Perennial Plant of the Year award in 2014 (‘Karl Foerster’ won in 2001). ‘Northwind’ has olive-green foliage and a sturdy, upright habit. Another showy switchgrass is ‘Shenandoah’, noted for its stunning burgundy leaves and plumes in autumn.

Written by Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. The photo was made available under a Creative Commons license specified by the photographer: daryl_mitchell. More photos are available in the NDSU Yard & Garden Report

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