Fall’s Finest

With their dazzling color and captivating movement, ornamental grasses are the heart of any fall landscape. The range of sizes, textures, and colors make finding the right grasses for your project a snap. To get started, here are a few of our fall favorites.

Sporobolus heterolepis is a prairie species that has become one of our most popular plants—with good reason. It is perhaps the most ornamental of the native prairie grasses. Its fine texture and neat, bunching habit fit into most landscape settings. In fall, the foliage turns a coppery orange color, which later fades to cream. Easy, beautiful, and hardy to a wide range of zones, its flowing look is an excellent choice for mixed plantings, meadow or prairie plantings, and as a lawn alternative.

With all the new Little Bluestem cultivars on the market, Schizachyrium scoparium often gets overlooked. But it’s a fantastic fall plant, too. Little Bluestem begins the season with greens, blues, and purples. Fall brings on multi-reds and oranges. Little Bluestem produces downy white seeds in September, providing a stunning contrast to its amazing fall color. It looks great planted in groups and gives a fresh look to the traditional home landscape. It also provides interest during the winter months. It’s got eco-power too, serving as a pollinator host and food source for birds and small mammals. Little Bluestem thrives in full sun and tolerates poor soil. Too much water, fertilizer, or shade can produce lax growth than will flop.

Folks are always amazed by the lovely fall color of Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’. Its green foliage is low-key and attractive throughout the growing season, but it puts on a fall show of vivid reds and oranges. To top it off, magenta blooms turn white, setting off the stunning colors. Flame Grass is not considered a dwarf, but it only reaches four feet, making it useful for areas with limited space. Flame Grass prefers more moisture than other Miscanthus to look its best.

Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘White Cloud’ doesn’t get as much attention as Pink Muhly Grass, but this cultivar deserves the spotlight. It produces beautiful, moonlight white, billowing seed heads in early fall. It blooms later than the species—usually about two weeks later here in central North Carolina. Drought tolerant, undemanding, and elegant, it is a capable candidate for difficult areas. It looks stunning in masses, and is a fantastic complement to the colorful red and orange fall foliage of other grasses.

For more fall options, see our list of grasses with notable fall color.

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