Our Favorite Fall Grasses


1. Muhlenbergia capillaris; 2l. Schizachyrium ‘Standing Ovation’; 2r. Panicum Virgatum 

For garden grasses, late fall is the season to shine. As flowers fade, grasses become the centerpiece of the landscape thanks to their varied textures, dramatic heights, and long-lasting color. Plant buyer Karen C. says, "In the fall, native perennial grasses are especially spectacular." Below, she shares three favorite, seasonal varieties that are currently in our nursery.

Muhlenbergia capillaris: Karen tells us, "By far my favorite grass this fall is Muhlenbergia capillaris. We have the straight species and the cultivar ‘Fast Forward,' which has been a bestseller in the nursery all season long." Commonly known as "Muhly grass," this perennial hedge is native to eastern North America, where it grows in clumps along roads, in clearings, on plain prairies, and in sandy or rocky woods. We love it in fall thanks to its feathery, pink blooms, which remain colorful until the end of the season as the foliage takes on a coppery tone.

Schizachyrium ‘Standing Ovation’: A hardy grass that can flourish in poor or dry soil, this spiky specimen features a tight, upright habit and foliage that transforms from blue to fiery reds and oranges as autumn progresses. Growing up to four feet tall, it is ideal for use as a screen or vertical accent. Its rugged texture means that it will stay upright even in winter, providing interest until spring pruning.

Panicum virgatum: Commonly known as switchgrass, this perennial is one of the dominant species on the American prairie and an important plant for soil conservation thanks to its unusually deep roots. An upright, columnar habit makes it excellent as a specimen, screen, border for water features, or even a large container planting. Extremely sturdy, it will remain standing throughout the winter and provide cover for backyard birds. Many Panicum varieties change color at the tips during fall for a bright pop in the garden; Karen's favorites include ‘Apache Rose’ (pink), ‘Heavy Metal’ (blue), and ‘Shenandoah’ (red).

Photography courtesy of: Jenny Evans (1);  Scott Weber (2l); Chhe (2r)

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