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8 of our favourite ornamental grasses for shade
Last Updated on January 21, 2020 by John
If you are looking for ornamental grasses to fill a shady area in your garden, rest assured there are literally handfuls of variety suitable for any area 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 the favourites varies called Carex Ice Dance.
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 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.
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. It is easy to grow, requiring little in maintenance, and like all ornamental grasses has the resiliency to pests and diseases. The golden varieties such as ‘Aureola’ as perfect for shade as they are bright and stand out even in the shade which is what we are looking for in a grass 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 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. This is a very hardy variety which prefers partial shade but does also grow 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.
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.
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.
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 grass needs to be planted in partial shade in a sheltered position in well-drained soil. It’s worth mentioning that it can be grown in full sun but does need moist soil to thrive.
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.
Deschampsia cespitosa (Tufted hair grass)
Known as 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 which take 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.
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 have to settle on just one. If some of these seem very appealing you can mix and match so that you enjoy a multitude of colour and texture.