The Best Ornamental Grasses for Florida

Kate Mitchell

June 13, 2024

When it comes to creating a beautiful and vibrant landscape in Florida, choosing the right ornamental grass species makes a big difference. Ornamental grasses offer aesthetic value and, if you pick a suitable variety, can be drought tolerant and easy to maintain. Whether you're looking for texture and movement or a privacy screen, there's an ornamental grass for every garden design!

Native Ornamental Grasses in Florida

Whatever your objectives in landscape design, using native plants is always a good idea. Native plants are those which grow naturally in a given environment. This means that they are usually low maintenance plants, as they are naturally suited to local conditions. They also tend to attract beneficial pollinators. Let's take a look at some native grasses for your Florida landscape design.

Fakahatchee Grass (Tripsacum dactyloides)

Fakahatchee Grass is a native grass to Florida that thrives in full sun or light shade. It can tolerate standing water for a short time and also has high salt tolerance, making it ideal for Florida's wet climate.

Fakahatchee Grass grows in clumps that reach five to six feet tall and four to five feet wide. Because it can tolerate light shade, this evergreen grass is a popular choice beneath trees. It can also be found growing in moist soil, for example on pond banks.

Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)

Fluffy, pink-purple flower stems on a tall, narrow grass

Muhly Grass is a distinctive native plant that puts on a striking display of fluffy pink or purple flower stems each fall. Its narrow, dark green leaves add softness and movement to your landscape design year-round.

Muhly Grass reaches up to five feet in height. It prefers sunny conditions. Initially it will need plenty of water but, once established, this beautiful accent plant becomes drought tolerant.

River Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)

River Oats is another native grass that is naturally found in damp soil, in semi-shaded locations. The attractive, dangling seed heads change color from bright green, early in the season, through to red-brown in late summer or fall.

River Oats will grow up to five feet tall. It is another low maintenance grass and, once established, has some drought tolerance, although it prefers a moist site. River Oats does best in shade.

Drought-Tolerant Ornamental Grasses

Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum)

Fluffy, light purple seed heads on tall green grass stems

Purple Fountain Grass is a hardy short-lived perennial. As the name suggests, it puts on a beautiful display each year with its red to purple flower stalks.

Purple Fountain Grass thrives in full sun. The feathery inflorescence grows up to twelve inches long. It can be seen from early summer through to the first frost of winter. Due to its tendency to self-seed, some varieties of Purple Fountain Grass can be mildly invasive.

Blue Oat Grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens)

Blue Oat Grass is a clumping grass with slender, grey-blue foliage. Its branching clusters of light brown flowers resemble oats (hence the name) and are visible late spring through summer.

This pretty member of the grass family looks pretty in rock gardens. It can also be planted in groups beside a lawn or other ornamental plants for textural variety. Blue Oat Grass prefers full sun, but can tolerate some shade. It grows best in moist soil with good drainage, but can cope with a range of soil types.

Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis)

Creamy seed heads on a long, arching grass

Maiden Grass is a fine-textured, clumping grass with slender green foliage and a fountain-like appearance. It can be grown in a container or as an accent plant. Maiden grass has very flexible foliage that adds movement to your garden design.

Plant your Maiden Grass in full sun. It can grow in clay or sandy soil with good drainage. This ornamental plant has moderate drought tolerance and is best transplanted in the spring.

Ornamental Grasses for Privacy Screens

Zebra Grass (Miscanthus sinenthis Zebrinus)

Zebra Grass is another variety of Miscanthus sinensis, named for its striking foliage. Its tall, slender, green leaves are streaked with creamy yellow stripes. Zebra Grass grows quickly and its feathery plumes can reach up to seven feet in height, so it works well to add privacy to your dream garden.

Zebra Grass needs full sun. It prefers moist soil and can grow in slightly boggy ground. This striking accent plant needs plenty of water when first planted but can tolerate drought conditions once established.

Bamboo Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia dumosa)

Bamboo Muhly, with its feathery green stems reaching four to six feet tall, is an excellent landscaping choice for gardeners looking to add a privacy screen to their garden designs. This pretty, dynamic grass is cold hardy in Zones 7 to 10 and is therefore suited to Florida's warmer climate.

Bamboo Muhly Grass should be planted in full sun. It can grow in alkaline or acidic soil as long as it has adequate drainage. Usually it acts as an evergreen, although colder temperatures can cause some of the foliage to die back. Remove any dead leaves before new growth begins in spring.

Ornamental Grasses to Avoid

Some exotic plants that used to be regular features in Florida's backyard landscapes are no longer recommended because they are known to be invasive. Many non-native plants can be grown safely in Florida when properly controlled. However, there are a few plants that grow very aggressively and spread very quickly, endangering the native plants and animals needed for local ecosystems to thrive. IFAS therefore no longer recommends Pampas Grass for landscaping or any other use. Muhly Grass or Fakahatchee are good alternatives and are both native plants.

By incorporating these beautiful and low-maintenance ornamental grasses into your Florida garden, you can create a visually appealing and sustainable landscape that will thrive for years to come. If you'd like help with your landscape design, don't hesitate to contact LawnMore's friendly gardening professionals to answer all your questions!

Get an easy, custom quote for your landscaping or maintenance project today.

For small projects, large renovations, and maintenance agreements for homes and businesses of any size, we’re ready to do an excellent job for you.

Book a Call Today