Ornamental grasses are available in many shapes, sizes, colors and development patterns. They include plants which are accurate grasses in addition to some which are grass-like, with long thin leaves and a grassy appearance. A versatile set of landscape plants, a few grasses are especially attractive since their weeping foliage arches, cascading towards the ground as it grows.
As their name implies, fountain grasses arch and cascade downward, resembling a fountain. They belong to the genus Pennisetum and come in several sizes and colors. The variety “Hameln” (P. alopecuroides) grows about 2 1/2 feet tall, with deep green leaves which form arching clumps, followed by pinkish-white blossoms resembling spikes of wheat. “Rubrum” (P. setaceum) is 3 to 5 feet tall with red or burgundy leaves and purple fluffy, brush-like flowers. The variety “Small Bunny” (P. alopecuroides) is a dwarf plant, only 1 to 1 1/2 feet tall. Like all fountain grasses, it prefers moist, well-drained soil and full sun but will tolerate some shade. Fountain grass usually does well in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 5 through 9, though “Rubrum” is best grown in zones 9 to 10.
Sedges are perennial grass-like plants which prefer shade and fluctuate in their own colors and growth habits. Many have attractive drooping leaf, like a plant known as weeping or drooping sedge (Carex pendula) using dark green, incredibly thin leaves cascading into the ground. It forms a weeping mound about 3 feet tall and contains thin flower spikes that arch above the foliage. Japanese grass sedge (C. morrowii) simply attains a height of 1 to 1 1/2 feet. The standard variety has green foliage, but the cultivar “Variegata” includes silver-to-green variegated foliage Both function well as a ground cover, especially in shady spots under trees. All these sedges are acceptable for USDA zones 5 through 9.
A few tall ornamental grasses have also a cascading habit, with long, thin, drooping leaves. Lots of the tall forms have also stunning blossom stalks reaching well above the grassy clump. Giant Chinese silver grass (Miscanthus giganteus) may reach 10 to 12 feet, growing in USDA zones 5 through 9, its green foliage hanging downward since it attains its whole height. Another tall type, known as plume grass (Saccharum ravennae), grows 6 to 12 feet tall, with weeping green foliage and purplish or bronze flowers that extend above the clump. It prefers sun, tolerates drought and urban states and grows best in USDA zones 5 through 9.
Several ornamental grasses with a cascading kind are unusual for their color or growth habit. For example, golden Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra “Aureola”) offers stunning, golden-yellow foliage when grown in sunlight. Only growing 1 to 1 1/2 feet tall, it’s a fantastic choice for the front of a decorative border. Another Japanese grass cultivar known as “Nicholas” (H. macra Nicolas) also attains only 1 to 1 1/2 feet tall, with weeping yellow-green foliage that turns bright orange or red in autumn. Both kinds are appropriate for USDA zones 5 through 9. Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) grow from 2 to 5 feet tall with masses of unusually flat, drooping bronze-colored seed heads which hang down in clusters, giving the plant a cascading appearance in USDA zones 3 through 8.