With the seemingly endless 90-degree days we’ve had recently in Knoxville, Tennessee, you may have noticed that many plants look sad when they wilt under the unbearable heat. When the lush, green foliage of early summer begins to hang, ornamental grasses find their time to shine. Here are three of my favorite ornamental grasses for my landscape designs in Knoxville and East Tennessee:

Grass No. 1: Little Bunny Fountain Grass

The first of my favorite grasses is Little Bunny Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Little Bunny’), which usually grows up to one foot tall and wide. The nice thing about this variety is that it shows a beautiful white flower in late summer until autumn.

Little bunny Pennisetum ornamental grass

Grass No. 2: Muhly Grass

Pink or White Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is a true show stopper in late summer and autumn with a hazy pink or white hue. It is also one of my favorite grasses. In contrast to the Little Bunny Fountain Grass, Muhly grows slightly taller and reaches three to four feet in height. For a white blossom, try the White Cloud or pink variety with the Hairyawn or Regal Mist varieties.

Pink Muhly ornamental grass

Grass No. 3: Karl Foerster feather reed grass

Karl Foerster Grass – also known as Feather Reed Grass – (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’) is another great choice for anyone looking for ornamental grass to incorporate into a landscape design in East Tennessee. It grows to about two feet tall and wide, but its flowers can grow up to six feet tall. From a landscaping perspective, Feather Reed Grass is a wonderful option if you want to soften or contrast plant material in an area with hard features such as retaining walls. It has a reddish-brown flower that looks best in late spring but lasts until autumn. (For a personal look, head to downtown Knoxville and walk past the Courtyard by Marriott hotel where we took this photo!)

Karl Foerster ornamental grass

Interesting facts about ornamental grasses

For best results, plan to plant ornamental grasses in spring or early summer. Doing this in the heat of summer will not end well for you or the grass! Once established, most ornamental grasses (including my three favorites) can withstand drought conditions, so the long periods of no rain we’re used to in August and September in East Tennessee make them a great choice.

Plant these grasses in partial or full sun and get a professional look by planting them in large groups. Grasses like this can create a nice movement in your landscaping when blowing in the summer breeze. Therefore, consider sweeping a single type of ornamental grass while landscaping. For your ornamental grass to look good, it’s best to prune it in late winter or early spring, not autumn. This encourages new, green growth in spring, which will not disappoint at the beginning of summer.

Contact us

In this post you will find some tips for maintaining the summer landscape. If you are looking for help choosing the best plants for your garden, give us a call and we can develop a landscape design that includes the best ornamental grasses for a year-round landscape view that won’t wither under this late summer heat. Call the Carex Design Group owner and landscape architect, Bob Graves, at 865-765-5550 or fill out our contact form.

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