General gardening topics

8 of our favourite ornamental grasses for shade

Last updated on March 20th, 2022

Our site is reader supported, this means we may earn a small commission from Amazon and other affiliates when you buy through links on our site.

If you are looking for ornamental grasses to fill a shady area in your garden, rest assured there is a handful that is suitable for any location you have, whether it’s a sunny spot or a shady spot or something in-between. Below you will find our favourite ornamental grasses that will thrive in shady spots.

We start our list off with one of our favourite varieties, called Carex ‘Ice Dance’.


1. Hakonechloa macra – Japanese Forest Grass

This adaptable ornamental grass loves shady areas. It produces loose, cascading foliage that arches and moves in the wind. The colours range from solid green to variegated, to bright gold as pictured above so there is something for everyone. The plant grows between 20-50cm in spread and around 20-50cm in height.

This adaptable ornamental grass loves shady areas. It produces loose, cascading foliage that arches and moves in the wind. The colours available range from solid green to variegated, to bright gold (as pictured above) so there is something for everyone. The plant grows between 20-50cm in spread and around 20-50cm in height. It is easy to grow, requires little maintenance, and like all ornamental grasses has the resiliency against pests and diseases. The golden varieties such as ‘Aureola’ are perfect for shade as they are bright and stands out even in the shade, which is what we are looking for in grasses to plant in a shady area of the garden. Grows well in exposed or sheltered areas and will thrive in most moist but well-drained soils.

Hakonechloa macra
See availability from the best retailers

2. Hakonechloa ‘All Gold’

As the name suggests, this plant is all gold in colour, bright yellow atop a green base. The stems are quite slender and the bright yellow foliage takes on the appearance of small bamboo. It spreads slowly and gently via rhizomes, perfect for containers or mixed borders and only grows to around 40cm

As the name suggests, this plant is golden in colour, bright yellow atop a green base. The stems are quite slender and the bright yellow foliage takes on the appearance of small bamboo. It spreads slowly and gently via rhizomes, making it perfect for containers or mixed borders because it only grows to approximately 40cm. This is a very hardy variety that prefers partial shade, however, it does also grow well in full sun in moist humus-rich soil. This variety does die back for the winter so mulching in autumn with a layer of compost is recommended.

Hakonechloa 'All Gold'
See availability from the best retailers


3. Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ – Black Mondo Grass

If you want an ornamental grass like no other for your shady area, consider this black grass. It truly catches the eye with its rich black coloured leaves and in summer it's light pink flowers that crawl up the stems. This is ideal for ground cover, filling a shady area with pink flowers that seem to pop out of nowhere. At its maturity, it will span just shy of 30cm wide and tall.

If you want ornamental grasses like no other for your shady area, consider this black grass. It truly catches the eye with its rich coloured leaves and in summer it’s light pink flowers that crawl up the stems. This is ideal for groundcover and filling a shady area with pink flowers that seem to pop out of nowhere. At its maturity, it will span just shy of 30cm wide and tall.


4. Uncinia rubra – Red Hook Sedge

Known as the firedance, this compact sedge is a rich red, bronze colour and is absolutely stunning. If you are looking to add a splash of colour, this mound-shaped grass is it. The leaves have vertical accents of red along with the otherwise olive green leaves so it creates unique clumps that juxtapose other verdant plants or grasses you grow with it.

This compact sedge is a rich red, bronze colour and is absolutely stunning. If you are looking to add a splash of colour, this mound-shaped grass is perfect. The leaves have vertical accents of red along with the otherwise olive green leaves so it creates unique clumps that contrasts the other verdant plants or grasses you grow alongside it. This grass needs to be planted in partial shade, in a sheltered position and in well-drained soil. It’s worth mentioning that it can be grown in full sun but does need moist soil to thrive.

Uncinia rubra
See availability from the best retailers

5. Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’

Grow this in well-drained soil, with partial shade or full shade. An ornamental grass it has beautiful green, yellow foliage, turning reddish tinged in autumn and produces seed heads, which makes it stand apart from many other ornamental grasses. Plant in fertile well-drained soil and a sheltered or exposed position. Finally, it is somewhat of a smaller type of grass only growing to around 20-30cm.

Grow this in well-drained soil, with partial shade or full shade. An ornamental grass that has beautiful green, yellow foliage, turning reddish tinged in autumn and produces seed heads, which makes it stand apart from many other ornamental grasses. Plant in fertile well-drained soil and a sheltered or exposed position. Finally, it is somewhat of a smaller type of grass only growing to around 20-30cm.

Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'
See availability from the best retailers

6. Deschampsia cespitosa – Tufted Hair Grass

Known as the tufted hair grass, this plant produces hair-like blades of green and yellow grass that grow in tufts. It forms clumps and grows in low, dense groups. There are flowers that cover the foliage come summer that takes on tones of purple, green, gold and silver, forming a cloud of colour above the foliage. They attract birds well and are tolerant of air pollution so you can plant them along borders near the road without issue. 

Deschampsia cespitosa
See availability from the best retailers

7. Luzula nivea – Snow Rush

This grass, like many others, is resistant to pests and diseases and is very hardy. It is known for its snow-white blooms that grow on top of slender, rich green stems. The evergreen is clump-forming with medium blade widths. Small, it will reach between 30-40cm at its full maturity but the flower stems can reach some 60cm tall. It can be grown in sheltered or exposed sites and grows well in partial or full shade which makes it a great contender for this list. Will grow in nearly all soils types from poor to fertile as long as its well-drained.

This grass, like many others, is resistant to pests and diseases and is very hardy. It is known for its snow-white flowers that grow on top of slender, rich green stems. The evergreen grass has a clump-forming habit with medium blade widths. Small, it will reach between 30-40cm at its full maturity but the flower stems can reach some 60cm tall. It can be grown in sheltered or exposed sites and grows well in the partial or full shade, which makes it a great contender for this list. Will grow in nearly all soil types from poor to fertile as long as it’s well-drained.


8. Carex ‘Ice Dance’

This plant is commonly called sedge. It blooms between April and July with insignificant flowers so the foliage is what everybody is talking about. Like all ornamental grasses, it is best known for its colourful leaves.

This plant is commonly called sedge and it flowers between April and July, producing insignificant flowers so the foliage is what does the talking. Like all ornamental grasses, it is best known for its colourful leaves. This grass grows best in partial shade or full shade and requires moist but well-drained soil. The thin blades of grass grow in rich, verdant shades and span upwards of 10-50cm with a spread of around the same. What makes this grass a little special is that it does grow well in very shady areas, where other plants may fail.

No matter which of these ornamental grasses you choose you can now fill an otherwise dull shady part of your garden with something stunning, simple and easy to maintain. What’s more, you don’t need to settle for just one. If some of these seem very appealing you can mix and match so that you enjoy a multitude of colours and textures.

Last update on 2022-03-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at john@pyracantha.co.uk

Write A Comment