With the cooler temperatures of fall come the beautiful blooms of ornamental grasses. Grasses add vertical interest to pots and gardens that can be difficult to achieve with other flowers and ornamentals. Many of the fall blooming ornamental grasses that grow in southern Utah are perennial,so you only need to plant them once to enjoy them year after year! I have three favorite perennial ornamental grasses for southern Utah, and I will share them with you now.
As fall continues into winter, check local garden centers for sweet deals on dormant ornamental grasses.
Regal Mist, aka Pink Muhly, is a medium-size ornamental grass that thrives in St. George. This narrow-leaf grass gets about three feet tall and wide, and will grow in full sun or partial shade. They are drought-tolerant but really look best with regular water. Regal Mist won’t grow in all parts of southern Utah but is hardy to just below zero degrees. Below 3,000 feet is probably your best bet for cold hardiness. In the fall, rosy pink plumes emerge and literally look like mist! The late afternoon is the best time to view these plumes. When the sun shines through the “mist” it is mesmerizing. Regal Mist should be cut to just a few inches tall in late winter or early spring. Even though it doesn’t go completely dormant in St. George, the new growth in spring will look so much better if last season’s growth is cut to the ground.
Maiden Grass is a larger vertical accent growing six to eight feet tall and three to five feet wide. It grows best in full sun, but it doesn’t need it all day long. A few hours of direct sun will do the trick, especially in St. George. It is crazy cold-hardy, tolerating temps as low as -15 degrees! Water this baby regularly, and fertilize in the early spring. At the end of summer, the creamy white blooms that appear on Maiden Grass are nice, but it’s the color change of the leaves after a frost that I really love! Silver green leaves turn golden bronze and stay that way through the winter. During late winter or early spring, cut the leaves to the ground, and wait for spring’s new growth.
Blonde Ambition Blue Grama is not a true fall bloomer, as the awesome bright green flowers come in summer. However, they fade to a beautiful blond, stick around through the winter, and look great until spring, so I’m counting it as one. This gorgeous blue-green grass will get about two to three feet tall. It is related to our native blue grama grass, and being that it’s cold hardy to -25 degrees, does exceptionally well in all areas of southern Utah. Blonde Ambition prefers full sun and will grow in any type of soil. This beauty is also drought tolerant and low maintenance! You don’t have to prune it down to the ground, but it really does look better if you do. So do it after you see new growth in the spring. And though it is water-wise, please water it during the summer months, especially if you want it to look happy. Anything tolerating drought usually looks pretty sad in an ornamental setting, i.e. your yard or garden. That being said, don’t drown it either.
Every three to five years, ornamental grasses benefit from division. It really revives and increases vigor in an otherwise blah grass. Division is when all or part of the grass, including the roots, is dug up and split apart and replanted. It’s pretty easy to do. Here’s a video to show you exactly how to do this. Dividing your grasses is a great way to get more grasses to plant in other parts of your garden or to share with a fellow gardener.
There are lots of ornamental grasses that will grow in southern Utah. I’ve only mentioned these three because I think they are exceptionally beautiful and they do very well here. Plant them alone in a pot as a focal point, in a flower garden to add vertical interest, or as an accent with trees and shrubs in your landscape. As fall continues into winter, check local garden centers for sweet deals on dormant ornamental grasses. Not only do you get a sweet deal at the checkout but you can divide that dormant grass and get more bang for your buck! Once again, welcome to winter gardening.