Ornamental grasses for shade are the ideal choice for people who don’t have much access to direct sunlight and would still like to improve the visual aesthetics of their gardens. Grass that is suited for shade is also much more low maintenance due to its nature and can be a lot of ease for the mind.

6 Ornamental Grasses for Shade Upgrading the Garden

If you were looking for decorative grass options but could not decide, here is a list of our top picks. You can also learn about their character, care differences, and more.

A List of Grasses That Are Suitable for Shade

1. Reed Grass

Feather reed grass maintains a clean, upright appearance all year long, in contrast to many other ornamental types of grass that tend to flop after blooming. It develops into dense clumps of upright, slender, three-foot-long green leaves.

– Characteristics

A popular perennial decorative grass created by crossing Calamagrostis arundinacea and Calamagrostis epigejos is called feather reed grass which is a merge known as the Calamagrostis x acutiflora. Plant the root ball of the feather reed grass in the ground or a container according to the depth as it was growing in its original container.

Reed Grass

In the summer, pinkish-purple, feathery flower spikes rise a few feet above the foliage before transforming into tan or golden seeds that can persist into the winter. This ornamental grass is one you can plant in the springtime or fall and has a modest growth rate.

– Care

Full daylight, defined as at least six hours of direct sunshine on most days, is ideal for growing feather reed grass. However, even in the hottest regions of its growing zones, it does welcome a little shelter from the glaring afternoon sun.

The grass tolerates a variety of soil types. Although it thrives in rich, continuously moist soil that drains well, it can also withstand hard clay soil and damp portions of the landscape, like the bank of a pond. Water requirements for feather reed grass are average. So whenever the soil feels dry about an inch or two below, water it, but not too deeply.

2. Purple Fountain Grass

Because of the arcing spikes of nodding purple flowers that gracefully spray out of its multitude of long, slender, burgundy-colored leaves, purple fountain grass is appropriately titled. It grows quickly and does best when planted in the spring.

– Characteristics

Purple fountain grass is a tropical ornamental grass that is native to Africa and Asia and is thus not especially cold-hardy. Even though you can only take advantage of it for a limited time during the year, it is still worth cultivating in areas with harsh winters.

Purple Fountain Grass

This plant produces gorgeous autumn seed heads favored in fall flower gardens. The flowering stems of this grass are loaded with fluffy seeds. Later, the feathery seed heads, popularly known as “plumes,” can be trimmed for dried flower arrangements.

This grass beauty makes it a common focal point in both container gardens and mixed beds. Several of them can be massed together to form a visually stunning border or privacy screen. It performs best when planted in a location protected from severe winds, but it may need some staking for support.

– Growth Requirements

Purple fountain grass prefers to be grown in full sunshine, though it will tolerate some mild shade. In your garden, choose a spot where it will get bright light for at least six to eight hours each day.

Fortunately, purple fountain grass doesn’t mind a variety of soil types. Even though purple fountain grass is a drought-tolerant ornamental grass, it needs regular watering as it establishes itself in your garden.

3. Mondo Grass

Mondo or monkey grass is frequently used in the South. A single flower stalk emerges in the summer with tiny, pinkish-red bell-shaped flowers.

– Variety

It can refer to any of three plants, including two varieties of liriope and one kind of ophiopogon (black mondo grass).

Mondo Grass

Even though they are utilized similarly, these three perennials have significant variances you should know before choosing one. All are suitable replacements for semi-evergreen, shade-tolerant ornamental grasses. All of them have little insect and disease issues. However, you should give them slug protection.

Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens,’ sometimes known as black mondo grass, is not a true grass; true grasses are members of the Poaceae family. Instead, black mondo grass is a perennial in the lily family with tuberous roots. It is a plant with no stem; the leaves grow in clumps from the ground.

– Characteristics

This grass-like plant is frequently used as an edging plant, in front of a border, or as a ground cover for semi-shaded locations. Rock gardens frequently contain it, and its unique, dark foliage is prized. Compared to a plant like Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina,’ it creates a striking contrast.

Black mondo grass grows slowly and takes a long time to sprout from a seed—up to three months or longer, and this is one of the features it is known for. Therefore, in order to ensure a strong foundation before the first winter, it is advisable to plant it in the spring at a faster pace.

– Growth Requirements

The seeds should be placed in wet, well-drained soil, four inches apart, in order to keep the moisture in the soil, you must immediately top-dress them with compost as it is an organic soil. There is no requirement for seasonal feeding, just remove the old leaf from around the plants every spring. Lift and divide the roots of the plants you want to thin out or multiply in the spring.

Although black mondo grass can endure a variety of solar exposure levels, more shade is beneficial in warmer climates. These shade loving greens prefer rich, organically-rich soil that is both moist and well-drained. An acidic pH is considered to be optimal. Mondo grass requires constant moisture but not damp conditions. More water is needed when the temperature is higher.

4. Northern Sea Oats

A perennial ornamental grass known as northern sea oats or chasmanthium latifolium can be sown during the fall or early spring, which is after the risk of frost has passed. It is a real grass because it belongs to the Poaceae family.

By the end of the summer, it starts to produce panicles of the green, oat-like flower heads that give it its name. These flower heads’ jagged edges make them visually interesting, and their sound adds interest to the environment as they flap in the wind.

– Characteristics

Unfortunately, it spreads so quickly that in certain areas, it is regarded as invasive, now, the initial spring shoots are blue-green, and they will not only add an ornamental touch of shades, they will also give your house a very vibrant look.

By mid-summer, an established plant will have reached a height of two to three feet and be sporting loose clumps of green foliage. The leaf blades have an arching lance shape and a mid-green tint.

Northern Sea Oats

While the plant provides appeal in the summer, northern sea oats shine in the fall, and at this point, the flower heads start to turn bronze and mature into seed heads. The leaf blades develop a golden hue to match the seed heads as fall progresses. Even though the foliage gradually turns tan, the plant still adds beauty to the environment in the winter.

Keep the northern sea oats up all winter long because they add interest. The space should then be prepared for the new shoots by trimming the stalk to a few inches above the ground in the spring.

– Growth Requirements

Give northern sea oats any amount of sun, from full to partial. Although it will live if grown in some shade, it won’t thrive as well: Flowering will be less abundant, and the fall color won’t be as vibrant.

This is crucial to take into account because northern sea oats are primarily produced for their flower heads and fall color. In addition, the northern sea oat prefers fertile, well-drained soil. The optimum soil is loamy and composted.

When cultivated in partial sunlight or shade, northern sea oats only require a reasonable amount of moisture, but they do not want their soil to become completely dry, hence you can install sprinklers and they will keep the soil perfectly moist and not soggy.

Finally, if the plant is just moderately hardy where you live, mulch the plant. Although the plant is only described as being cold-hardy as far north as zone five, some gardeners have had luck growing it in zone four if they mulch.

5. Japanese Forest Grass

One of the few varieties of grass that can grow in the shade is the lovely perennial ornamental grass known as Japanese forest grass, however, in botany it is called the Hakonechloa macra.

Although you can also plant it in the fall when the weather cools, Japanese forest grass is often planted as a container-grown nursery plant in the spring. Just be careful not to plant it in the dry heat of the summer, because it will not succeed due to the hot weather. It may take a full year for it to reach its maximum size, after which it will spread slowly and with no need for control.

– Characteristics

It is able to grow up to one foot tall and two inches wide, with a tidy mounding clump of 10 inches long, arching, lance-shaped, green, or variegated leaves. It is a slow-growing grass that does not spread invasively, in contrast to many ornamental types of grass.

Japanese Forest Grass

This plant requires little maintenance and is not frequently plagued by pests or illnesses. This perennial can be divided in the spring if desired, but as it grows slowly, it doesn’t need to be divided between staying healthy.

During the summer, mulching the area around the plants will help keep the soil cool, conserve moisture, and control weed growth. On another note, you must remember that in hot weather, leaves may scorch, and the plant mounds occasionally heave upward due to freezing winters.

– Growth Requirements

Partial shade, such as that found in wooded regions, is what Japanese forest grass prefers. It can tolerate greater sun in temperate climates while nearly complete shade in warmer ones. Gardeners in zone 4 can successfully cultivate this plant by providing it with this kind of winter protection if they live in the northern end of its hardiness range.

In addition, you should remember that the Japanese forest grass grows best in consistently moist, well-drained soil and is rich in humus and other organic matter. This ornamental grass needs consistently wet soil and frequent irrigation, and this is what will keep it thriving.

6. Acorus Gramineus

A perennial aquatic plant with sword-like leaves is called an Acorus or Acorus spp. It is frequently employed along the edges of landscaping ponds and other water features.The plant is known by the names calamus and sweet flag in common usage.

– Characteristics

It is not an ornamental grass; Acorus is a perennial that spreads by underground rhizomes. Early spring or late fall are the best times to sow it.

Acorus Gramineus

Growing Acorus is a remarkably simple process for landscaping plants. Plant it in a damp spot to a consistently wet spot, with full sun to light shade. It frequently performs at its peak on a brook or pond’s edge.

If you want to directly cultivate Acorus in a pond or other body of water, put the plant in a container first and then submerge it in water no deeper than four inches. One of the uncommon garden plants without significant pest or disease issues is this one.

– Growth Requirements

This water-loving plant enjoys some light as well. It thrives in full to partial shade, but greater sunlight necessitates more watering to keep the soil from drying up.

Furthermore, this type of grass may also grow in a wide range of soil conditions, including dense clay, the initial aspect that you should consider is that it prefers fertile soil that is constantly moist. An aquatic plant must be in continual or nearly constant contact with water.

Acorus is a plant that is indigenous to China and Japan. It typically thrives in USDA hardiness zones 6 to 9, though some cultivars may grow as far north as zone 4 and South as zone 11.


These are some of the best ornamental grasses that are well-suited for shade. If you’re going to choose any of them, keep in mind the following:

  • Japanese forest grass can easily tolerate warm temperatures but needs consistently wet soil.
  • Mondo grass is another ornamental grass that can thrive in the heat but will need more watering to keep up with it.
  • Reed grass may still need daylight but is otherwise a low-maintenance planter. It can easily adapt to both wet and dry soil. It is best to water the soil when it looks too dry just to keep the grass from burning.

As you have read our expertise set article, you can easily make the ultimate choice and evaluate what is the best fit for your house. So now, the question goes, which one will you grow?

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