When it comes to container plantings, our thoughts immediately shift to flowers, vegetables, herbs, succulents, etc. But grasses? Not so much. However, grasses are really a solid choice. They are low maintenance and add a stunning yet graceful touch to containers, whether they take center stage or are combined with other plants. Container plantings also give gardeners the option to enjoy grasses without the worry of them branching or spreading beyond their desired borders in a garden planting. Containers can also be brought inside during the colder months, which gives greater options to those of us living further up north for varieties of grass that typically do not survive lower temperature zones.
A gardener’s inner artist can really shine with ornamental grasses due to the wide variety of hues and textures available, which is why it was difficult narrowing this list of top grasses for pots down to five. Read on to get some great grass choices that will bring you happiness in a pot! Keep in mind that not all of the below choices are bona-fide “true grasses,” but they are considered to be “grass-like,” warranting their inclusion.
1. Blue Lyme Grass (USDA Hardiness Zone 4-9). Given that I’m an ardent admirer of the color blue, the inclusion of blue lyme grass in this top list may be strictly personal; however, I think that anyone would find its steel blue flat foliage to be a standout and one that would make a bold statement in any landscape. Blue lyme grass spreads vigorously and aggressively in a garden planting, which makes it an ideal candidate in containers for those wanting to avoid a runaway situation in their garden. This spiky heat and drought resilient grass grows up to 3-4 foot (.91-1.2 m.) tall, sending up tall flower spikes in the summer that turn beige.
2. Fiber Optic Grass (USDA Hardiness Zone 8-11). Fiber optic grass always gives me the warm fuzzies. With its arching bright green slender blades capped with tiny white flowers at the tips, it looks just like fiber optics, eliciting reveries of the fiber optic Christmas tree I display every holiday season. What’s not to love about that? Fiber optic grass is low growing, achieving heights between 6-12 inches (15-30 cm.) tall, and grows best in full sun to partial shade with soil kept consistently moist.
3. Carex ciderosticha ‘Snow Cap’ (USDA Hardiness Zone 5-9). I’m a northerner and the mere reference to snow makes me want to run, but not when it comes to this plant and certainly not with John Snow of Games of Thrones either for that matter (and I’m sure I’m not in the minority on that!). Anyhow, getting back to gardening – ‘Snow Cap’ is very reminiscent of a hosta with its dense mound of broad white strappy leaves outlined in a stripe of forest green. With its white bright leaves, this low growing plant (6-8 inches or 15-20 cm.) will provide a striking contrast in a combination container and performs well in part to full shade with consistently moist soil.
4. Corkscrew Rush (USDA Hardiness Zone 4-9). If you’re looking to add some whimsical mayhem to your container garden, then corkscrew rush (Juncus effusus ‘Spiralis’) is it. If the name has you envisioning a wine corkscrew, well, you’re probably not alone (hey – I’m very familiar with the wine corkscrew, too). However, the spirals in this plant are not as tight and rigid as in a wine corkscrew – they are much more loose, unruly, sinewy and twisty and will surely add a lot of interest to your container garden. For optimum results, this 12- to 18-inch (30-46 cm.) tall plant does best in full sun to part shade with consistently moist soil.
5. Black Mondo Grass (USDA Hardiness Zone 5-10). With a dense mound of purplish-black leaves, black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) brings the dark side to your container garden but, rest assured, no light sabers are needed here. However, the force will definitely be with you when you marvel at the strong stylish contrast that this plant brings to your container garden design. Black mondo grass grows 6-12 inches (15-30 cm.) tall, and it grows best in a full sun or part shade location.