Autumn Grace and Beauty

Ornamental perennial grasses are a fall showstopper with their graceful movement and beauty like no other in an array of fabulous colors, textures and sizes.  Whether planted in mass or as a specimen plant, ornamental perennial grasses make a bold fall statement that persist through winter. They tolerate a wide range of light and soil conditions, making them generally very easy to grow. Maintaining ornamental perennial grasses is as simple as trimming back old growth to 4” in the spring. Planting by mid-September gives the roots time to secure before winter.

Schizarchyrium scoparius

Also known as Little Bluestem, these underused clump forming, warm season group of grasses are native to our prairies.  These grasses offer a kaleidoscope of fall color from yellow, orange, bronze and copper to shades of purple, violet, burgundy and red.  Their ability to thrive in hot, dry sunny areas and multi-season interest makes these a choice ornamental grass for the garden.  Little Bluestem has been named as the 2022 Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association.


Eragrostis spectabilis

This native, also known as Purple Love Grass, is a short unassuming green grass until it blooms. Frothy masses of airy, mauve-pink flowers cover the foliage for a month, changing to tan for fall with increasing shades of red in the the foliage as the temperatures drop.  It’s compact nature and ability to tolerate salt and poor, dry soil makes this a perfect grass for a mailbox garden or roadside planting.

Sporobolus heterolepis

Sporobolus heterolepis, or Prairie Dropseed, feature dense, arching clumps of fine-textured green leaves and are native to the American prairies.  Thin 3′ flowering stalks of wispy, popcorn scented seedheads are the essence of fall.  A more compact and upright selection is a delightful addition to a smaller garden or the edge of a border.  Both are excellent in all soil types and drought tolerant, which make this an easy-to-grow choice grass for any garden.

Miscanthus sinensis

Miscanthus are some of the showiest and most beautiful of the flowering grasses.  Some grow upright, while others arch gracefully, but all are known for their spectacular fall color and magnificent fluffy plumes.  The foliage comes in an impressive array of colors, patterns and shapes.

Andropogon gerardii

A real standout in the landscape, Andorpogon gerardii or Big Bluestem, is one of the main tall prairie grasses of the Midwest and is the state grass of Illinois.  It’s columnar, upright clumps of blue to deep green leaves in the spring turn to shades of red and deep purple in the fall with seed heads that resemble upside-down turkey feet.

Winter Interest with Perennial Grasses


Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’, Schizachyrium scoparius ‘Blue Heaven’, Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’, Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’, Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoa’, Schizachyrium scoparius ‘Carousel’