#ProPlantTips: How to Plant Ornamental Grass!

#ProPlantTips: How to Plant Ornamental Grass!

Ornamental grass landscape

Ornamental Grasses are gorgeous living columns of waving beauty and graceful texture that are a must-have element to any sun landscape! These can be long-lived perennial grasses, so making sure they are planted correctly is a necessity to get them growing on the right foot!

Types of Ornamental Grass

Different Ornamental Grasses

Warm-season and cool-season grasses are divided depending on the temperatures they prefer to grow in. Obviously, warm-season grasses do best once summer's heat kicks in and can withstand higher temperatures and humidity, so they are better suited for Southern climates. Cool-season grasses spring up first thing after the snows melt but then can become dormant in the hottest parts of the year, or just stop growing when the heat is on. Cool-season grasses can handle colder climates and snow-packed winters of the Northern states with ease.

When to Plant Ornamental Grasses

Planting Ornamental Grass can be accomplished in the spring or the fall (or really any time during the growing season as long as you can keep them well watered through the heat of summer).

Pink Mulhy Grass

Spring-planted Ornamental Grasses have the advantage of a full summer of root development to ward off damage from freezing ground temperatures. 

Fall planting of Ornamental Grasses should be done 4-8 weeks before the first frost to enable some root development before the chill sets in. Fall planting of Ornamental Grasses may require a light cover of straw, mulch, or hay during the first winter to protect the tender roots.

Site Selection

Ornamental perennial grass

Really what most all Grasses want (with some exceptions) is a sunny location that is well drained. There are a few that might take a bit of shade, and some of the Red Switchgrasses and Sedges can tolerate some soils that are not as well drained.

Really planting our grasses that were grown in containers can be done very successfully all season long as long as you are careful to watch the watering when you plant.

Planting Ornamental Grass

Pink Fountain grass

Planting Ornamental Grass successfully begins with soil preparation on a site that has good soil drainage. Soggy sites are the fastest way to smother and drown root systems for many plants. Because most Grasses are adapted to the prairie environment, fast-draining soil is best for their health and longevity.

  • Sandy, loamy, loose soil with adequate organic matter to hold moisture
  • Full sun locations - at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day
  • Moderate yet consistent moisture at first - highly drought tolerant after establishment
  • Once a year pruning & fertilizer

Planting 1-2-3's

Planting 123 Infographic

  1. Unbox and inspect your new plants and get them into a shaded, protected location while you prepare their site.
  2. Overnight or for an hour before planting, set your Ornamental Grass pots (pot and all) into some water in a bucket or pail and submerge them to fully hydrate the entire root ball. Remove them and let them drain in the shade. Never leave potted plants in the full sun upon arrival!
  3. Carefully remove them from their nursery pots, sometimes squeezing the sides gently, or poking up through their drainage holes helps dislodge them. Container-grown Ornamental Grass can easily produce many roots in the pots so take a bit of time to loosen the soil and spread the circling roots out even pruning off some if needed.
  4. Sit them into the planting hole and ensure the top of their soil is level with the ground around them (the hole can be larger than its width no problem) and fill the hole with the plant in it, with water. If it drains fast, do it again. It is very important not to plant your new Ornamental Grass too deep so be sure to check that it is no deeper than it was growing in the pot.
  5. Sprinkle in Nature Hills Root Booster for life-long beneficial fungus symbiotic support!
  6. Then backfill with soil and pat them in firmly. Water in again to remove air spaces and help the soil settle. Repeat until it's nice and level and no longer drains fast or settles.
  7. Top with 3-4 inches of arborist mulch and or compost.


That’s it! You’ve planted your Ornamental Grass! Now continue with the rest; spacing them apart at their mature width, and check back each day! Keep uniform soil moisture around the Grass for optimum development. Our horticultural staff recommends using the ‘finger test’ method for daily water checks at the start. That’s where you literally poke a finger into the soil a few knuckles deep and see if it feels moist or feels dry. If it's dry - water. If it's moist - check back that afternoon or the next day.

It is crucial to test often at the start until the plant starts making new roots in your soil when it can start finding water on its own and become less dependent on you for water.

Tips & Tricks

Grass Ornamental

Ornamental grasses should be planted at the same depths as the pot or container they were growing. Planting Ornamental Grass too deep tend to develop roots that will rot in the ground. 

Ornamental Grasses do not require large amounts of fertilizer. Soil that is high in organic matter is preferred. Amend the soil, if needed, with ample organic matter, while tilling the soil. Small amounts of a general-purpose fertilizer can also be added while tilling.


Establishment & Maintenance


Once your Grass has established (usually once it’s gotten through its first year in the ground), you can back off watering and only provide supplemental moisture it during drought if able, and during dry early spring/late fall times of extreme lack of rain or other moisture.

Ornamental grasses perennials in autumn

Generally, Ornamental and Native Grass are grown for their extreme fall and winter interest, so do not cut your grasses down in the fall.  Each year, cut Ornamental Grass down to 4-6 inches in early spring before you see new growth, rake out the clump to remove dead debris and leaves. Our Garden Blog has great information on Pruning Grass Here! Some of the taller Grasses may require a pruning saw or trimmer if the blades are very stiff. The high silica in Grass blades dulls tools fast.

Every 3-5 years in the early spring or late fall, it’s time to divide your Ornamental Grass clumps to avoid overcrowding and thinning as the crown becomes congested in dead growth.

Taller Ornamental Grass may need some help standing tall through extreme weather and heavy drifting snow. You can bungee cord or tie up your grass clumps during these clumps and even stake them from behind if needed. But when planted in full sun and in a protected area from straight-line winds, your Ornamental Grass will be strong enough to stand tall on its own.

Gorgeous Ornamental Grass

Tough, adaptable, and low-maintenance Ornamental Grass!

Get your Grasses off on the right foot for a lifetime of enjoyment by planting them the right way the first time and giving them the care they need to keep growing strong! Nature Hills has an enormous selection of Ornamental Grass for you to choose from to add this dimension of noise canceling, movement, vertical airy texture, and flowing beauty into your garden!

Happy Planting!

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