Ornamental grasses have also gotten a bad rap as being uncontrollable and invasive plants that will quickly spread out of control. Happily, not all of ornamental grasses are competitive growers, and many low, mounding species may develop efficiently as ground covers or border plants alone or in masses.
Sedges (Carex spp.) Are grass-like plants that are often found near the edge of lakes, streams, bogs and lakes. “Bowles Golden” sedge (Carex elata “Bowles Golden”) is a low-growing plant reaching 1 to 3 feet tall in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9. It has yellowish blade-like leaf which changes to burgundy hues in the fall. Leatherleaf sedge (Carex buchananii) rises in USDA zones 6 through 9 between 1 and 3 feet tall. Its stiff orangish-brown foliage has a curved tip and rises a burgundy bronze hue in the fall. “Sparkler” sedge (Carex phyllocephala “Sparkler”) rises to only about 18 inches tall with green-and-white blades that are striped.
Fescue (Festuca spp.) Is a genus consisting of over 300 perennial grasses. Blue fescue (Festuca glauca) is a low-growing ornamental grass with stunning foliage in shades of azure. “Elijah Blue” (Festuca glauca “Elijah Blue”) produces silvery-blue foliage, “Boulder Blue” (Festuca glauca “Boulder Blue”) contains among the brightest blue foliage of any blue fescue cultivar, and “Blue Glow” (Festuca glauca “Blue Glow”) contains bluish-gray foliage. These showy plants grow in USDA zones 4 through 8 in full sunlight and reach approximately 1 foot tall with a mounding form.
Some cultivars of fountain grass are considered invasive due to their aggressive tendencies. But not all fountain grasses are debatable, and some cultivars grow well in home landscapes without taking over the region. “Fireworks” fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum “Fireworks”) rises in USDA zones 9 through 10 with heights of no more than 3 feet. It produces variegated foliage with stripes of burgundy, pink, white and green. Black flowering fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides “Moudry”) reaches 2 feet tall in USDA zones 5 through 9. It grows in a clumping form and produces deep purple, nearly black, flower spikes in late summer. Purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum “Rubrum”) is a mound-forming ornamental grass growing in USDA zones 8 through 11. It may reach 1 to 3 feet tall producing burgundy foliage and purple plumes.
Rushes (Juncus spp.) Are a cosmetic grass frequently found growing near bodies of water. These perennial plants are grown for their attractive foliage and can help prevent sediment at water’s edge. Growing in USDA zones 2 through 9, “Blue Dart” rush (Juncus tenuis “Blue Dart”) reaches approximately 1 foot tall with bluish green, slender foliage. “Unicorn” corkscrew rush (Juncus effusus f. spiralis “Unicorn”) produces stems that emerge in a tight spiral and — since the stems develop and uncoil — spread outward in various directions. “Unicorn” grows in an unruly clumping mound and is located in USDA zones 4 through 9 reaching 1 to 2 feet tall. “Curly-wurly” rush (Juncus decipiens “Curly-wurly”) is a little smaller than another dash cultivars, reaching just about 6 inches tall. This miniature clumping grass produces stems that have a corkscrew-like look.