Hardy grasses not only provide accents, but also prove to be long-lasting and easy-care garden dwellers. To ensure that they get through the winter unscathed, a certain amount of care is essential. However, most species can be left to their own devices. There are both low and tall ornamental grasses that are winter hardy. Some species can also overwinter in pots outside.

care in winter

While many ornamental grasses are hardy, most types require some attention. While low-growing grasses can be left to their own devices, consider tying up the tall-growing species in the fall. This will prevent the dead stalks from being pushed to the ground under the weight of snow. Dried ornamental grasses are only cut back in the coming spring. Winter or evergreen species do not require pruning but do require watering during the winter. Water the plants with lukewarm water on frost-free days so that the grasses can compensate for their water loss.

Low hardy grasses

Among the sedges there are a number of species that are extremely hardy and hardy. They come from the genera Carex and Luzula and offer visual variety on lawns, on the banks of water or in rock gardens. Their color variety is enormous and many species planted in groups can cover unsightly areas in the garden.

Brown-Segge (Carex nigra)

The sour grass, which can be up to 50 centimeters high, grows in the form of lawns or clumps. In summer, the leafy stems appear, which develop sheaths of brown to reddish brown color at the base. The male spikes are purple in color while the female inflorescences are black-green in color.

Note: Did you know that the brown sedge develops knee-high clumps on wet meadows in Scandinavia? The cushions stand out clearly in the landscape and sprout anew every year.

Japanese sedge (Carex morrowii)

The hemispherical growth of this sedge comes into its own when planted alone. The leaves droop and remain green throughout the winter. The hardy Japanese sedge prefers partially shaded locations as its leaves burn easily in the sun. Leaf coloring differs between species:

  • ‘Variegata’ with dark green leaves
  • ‘Aureovariegata’ with golden yellow leaf margins
  • ‘Icedance’ with green leaves edged whitish yellow

Snow-white grovesime (Luzula nivea)

As a plant of the Alps, this Luzula has no problems with sub-zero temperatures. Its grass-green foliage and snow-white flowers do best in partially shaded to shaded areas when the soil is moderately fresh and musty. A humic loamy soil in the neutral to moderately acidic range provides optimal growth conditions.

Wald-Hainsimse (Luzula sylvatica)

It blends in perfectly between ornamental grasses in semi-shady to shady locations and develops glossy green leaves. The native species shows its brownish inflorescences between May and June. The Luzula thrives on a musty, humus-rich soil with moderately acidic to acidic conditions.

Tip: Luzula sylvatica forms dense stands in areas with high humidity. Under woody plantations, it counteracts the spread of trees and shrubs.

Tall grasses

Some sweet grasses reach heights of growth between one and two meters. They are ideal for designing privacy hedges. As grasses retreat in autumn, the above-ground parts of the plant dry up. Nevertheless, the brown culms protect against unwanted looks and also offer wintering insects a sheltered retreat. In spring, the stems are cut back close to the ground so that the fresh shoots get enough light and the grasses can develop a lush stock.

Chinese reed ‘Silberfeder’ (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silberfeder’)

The sweet grass grows to a height of up to two meters and feels particularly at home near water. A loamy to sandy subsoil with fresh to moist conditions provides ideal growing conditions. The grass adorns the garden with showy panicles of flowers that remain until winter.

Note: The variety grows very luxuriantly and expansively. One copy is sufficient for one square meter.

Moor-Reitgras (Calamagrostis x acutiflora)

The hardy ornamental grass grows up to 130 centimeters high and flowers between July and August. Its infructescences remain in winter. The tautly upright growing bridlegrass feels at home in sunny locations. In the background of flower beds and perennials, it creates a natural boundary. It makes low demands on the soil:

  • loamy to sandy
  • permeable and fresh
  • humus and nutritious

Pfahlrohr (Arundo donax)

The grass, which comes from southern Europe, grows up to three meters high and is suitable as a hardy privacy hedge. It convinces as a decorative perennial with leaves up to 60 centimeters long. The grass prefers moist soil and feels at home on the banks of standing or flowing water. Once established, the species also spreads to dry soil.

Giant Chinese reed (Miscanthus giganteus)

The ornamental grass reaches a maximum height of three meters and is very opaque even in winter due to its lush foliage. The ornamental grass does not form runners and can be planted near lawns and flower beds without a rhizome barrier. Ideal locations are sunny to semi-shady.

Tube flasks (Typha)

The sweet grass grows near the shore or in shallow water in sunny locations. The native species are hardy and survive the cold season even if the water surface is frozen. At depth, the water should not freeze, otherwise the root nodules will be damaged. These three Typha species are commonly planted:

  • Broad-leaved bulrush in water depths of up to 60 centimetres
  • Narrow-leaved bulrush for swampy banks
  • Dwarf cattails up to 40 centimeters water depth

Hardy grasses for the tub

There are some grasses that are suitable for planting in balcony boxes and tubs, either alone or in company with related species. The optimal bucket size is of great importance so that the ornamental grasses survive the winter. Although they are hardy, the roots can be damaged by frost. Therefore, choose a pot whose volume is two to three times larger than the root ball. This means that there is enough space between the root system and the container, so that the soil in between can act as a buffer zone. Also protect the bucket from the cold in winter:

  • put it on a southern house wall
  • Wrap the container with garden fleece or jute bags
  • Adapt the thickness of the insulation to the frost zone

Bearskin fescue (Festuca gautieri)

The lawn-like growing plant forms evergreen carpets with needle-shaped leaves. Its dense and compact growth is reminiscent of soft bear fur. The bucket should be placed in a sunny location. The grass feels particularly comfortable in permeable and nutrient-poor soil. It prefers moderately dry to fresh conditions.

Blue Schiller grass (Koeleria glauca)

Native to Europe, the grass develops leaves with a gray-green tint. In nature, the schiller grass grows up to 40 centimeters high. When planted in a bucket, the ornamental plant stays a little smaller. It requires sandy and dry conditions and has low nutrient requirements.

Tip: Combine the grass with local heather plants and place the bucket in the blazing sun. Here the leaves of the grasses between the woody shoots provide dazzling moments even in winter.

Blue fescue (Festuca cinerea)

The grass develops spherical clumps with blue-grey foliage. Since it is insensitive to drought, it is ideal for pot culture. Barren soils with high permeability offer optimal growth conditions. With a height of about 15 centimeters, it is not obtrusive in the bucket.

Real sheep-swing (Festuca ovina)

The evergreen leaves of this native species shimmer grey-blue. The hardy sheep’s fescue develops semicircular clumps and flowers between May and July with green-yellow to brown spikes. The grass does well in normal garden soil and requires little water. It really comes into its own in the sun. There are a few subspecies that prove hardy:

  • Feinblättriger Schwingel (Festuca ovina tenuifolia)
  • Härtlicher Schwingel (Festuca ovina duriuscula)
  • Common fescue (Festuca ovina vulgaris)
  • Walliser Schwingel (Festuca ovina vallesiaca)

Striped moor grass (Molinia caerulea ‘Variegata’)

This ornamental grass harmonises with other heather plants. It develops greenish leaves with yellow stripes that turn pink when they sprout. The grass comes into its own in sunny to semi-shady locations. It prefers a well drained and humus rich substrate in fresh to moist conditions.

Note: The hardy grass not only impresses in spring, but also provides an attractive eye-catcher in autumn. Then leaves and stems turn golden yellow.

Tender Feather Grass (Stipa tenuissima)

In the group of ornamental grasses for the garden and planters, this species stands out with its fine and delicate growth. The feathery inflorescence appears between June and July in white-silver coloring above the hair-like leaves. The feather grass prefers barren and dry soil in a sunny location.

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