My Adventures Growing Ornamental Grasses in Houston
by Donald Ray Burger
Attorney at Law

Follwing is a list of ornamental grasses and grass-like plants we grow at Talking Leaves.

Bamboo Muhly. (Muhlenbergia dumosa). Perennial grass. Resembles bamboo, but not invasive like real bamboo. Height is between 2 and 5 feet. Has unimpressive flowers, but the leaves are striking. Planted in October, 2000.

Cassian. (Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Cassian') This is a small grass. It is supposed to develop nice autumn color. We will see. It is rather bland in its green stage.

Dwarf Maiden Grass (Miscanthus Sinensis 'Yakushima'). Perennial clumping grass. Gets three feet high in our garden and about two feet wide. Beautiful flowers. Root hardy. Good specimen grass.

Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides). Native to Australia. Mounding grass to 3 to 4 feet high. Full sun. Has striking plumy panicles in summer until freeze. Likes well-drained soil.

Gulf Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris). Perennial. Does great in Houston's gumbo. Ours is 1-1/2 to 2 feet tall. Very striking pink-tinged seed heads on this clumping grass. Care-free. Drought tolerant. Sally Wasowski recommends mowing it about Valentine's day.

Inland Sea Oats (Chasmarthium latifolium). Perennial. Eight to twelve inches high in our garden. Sally Wasowski recommends cutting them back to four inches in the winter. This is a grass that likes shade. Colonizes by rhizomes, but we have seen little spreading.

Lemon Grass. (Cymbopogon citratus) This is a tender perennial in Houston. It will make it through a mild winter, with some protection. It gets to between 2 to 4 feet high and 1 to 2 feet wide. It sort of looks like Johnson grass on steroids. Some visitors may mistake it for a weed. I suggest you put it in a pot (so there is no mistaking it for a weed) or in the back of the garden. Grow it for the wonderful lemon scent and flavor of the leaves, which are useful in cooking and for teas.

Morning Light. (Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning light') This is a clump-forming perennial. It prefers dry soil. Can get to 5 feet. It is suitable for growing is a pot. The variegated leaves make this one of my favorite ornamental grases.

Purple Fountain Grass. (Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum') This is a tender perenial. It may not survive a cold winter here. However, if it dies, just plant a new one. It grows real fast and there are few grasses in Houston that rival it for its color and majesty. It gets 3 to 4 feet high here and circumference is 1 to 2 feet. When the seed heads blow in the wind you will know why I like this grass so much.

Last revised December 13, 2011

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