17 Ornamental Grasses You Can Grow From Seed

If you prefer starting new plants from seed and are in search of interesting new ornamental grasses to try, stay right there! Join organic farmer Jenna Rich as she goes through 17 fun and unique ornamental grasses you can grow from seed.

Native ornamental grasses. Close-up of blooming ornamental grass Muhlenbergia capillaris, commonly known as pink muhly grass, in a sunny garden. This perennial grass features fine, thread-like leaves that form compact tufts. The plant bursts into a spectacular display of vibrant pink to reddish-pink, airy inflorescences that create a billowy and feathery appearance. The delicate and hazy pink plumes hold above the foliage.

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Ornamental grasses are sometimes overlooked as a way to add interest, vertical texture, and romance to all types of gardens. From tall and bold to low-growing, light, and airy, there are many different types of grasses you can grow.

Most ornamental grasses have very tiny seeds that easily blow away in the wind after dropping from the plant. Starting these seeds indoors is more conducive to structured gardening.

I’ve compiled a list of 17 ornamental grasses you can grow from seed, including both annuals and perennials. Let’s get started. 

Giant Wild Rye 

A close-up of green giant wild rye grass, displaying delicate, intertwining patterns. The lush green strands are adorned with delicate white streaks, creating a mesmerizing pattern that evokes the beauty of nature's handiwork.
Sow rye seeds lightly in mid-spring and expect germination within two to four weeks.
botanical-name botanical name Elymus condensatus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3-6 feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6-9

Giant wild rye is a native and less invasive alternative to pampas grass. Its seeds serve as food for birds. This ornamental grass grows slowly from seed and requires little maintenance to remain in good shape. Providing the same great height as pampas grass, giant wild rye won’t outcompete surrounding plants for nutrients. It looks great during all seasons of the year and doesn’t feature sharp, undesirable blades that can be dangerous for humans and wildlife. 

Use this stiff, evergreen grass to reduce erosion on slopes, accent a butterfly garden, or add harmony in an annual flowering garden. It’s deer-resistant and features erect, wheat-colored seed pods in July and broad leaves. It will be drought-tolerant once established. 

Direct sow seeds in mid-spring into prepared garden beds. Rake them in to just barely cover so they can receive the light needed to germinate. Germination can take two to four weeks. 

Blue Fescue 

Blue fescue sways in a sun-kissed field, its hue reminiscent of a cloudless summer sky. The color dances between cobalt and azure, creating a serene and calming ambiance within the lush landscape.
Versatile hardy perennial fescue has a silvery-blue hue and adapts to various settings.
botanical-name botanical name Festuca glauca
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 6-10 inches 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8 

This grass is extremely hardy and subsists just about anywhere. A fast-growing perennial, blue fescue does well in containers and along borders and rock walls. It’s quite attractive for a low-growing grass, complementing colorful annual flowers well. Mulch them with contrasting woodchips to make them pop. 

Blue fescue has an interesting, silvery blue tinge to its green blades. Native to Europe, it grows best in spring and fall when temperatures aren’t too hot. It goes dormant in summer and winter when temperatures aren’t ideal. ‘Elijah Blue’ is a clumping variety that holds up well in peak summer heat. 

Start blue fescue ornamental grass from seed in late winter indoors in pots or by spreading seeds directly in prepared areas. Seeds need light to germinate, so press the seeds into the soil, but don’t cover them. Germination rates are best at 65-75°F (18-24°C) and the entire process can take up to 30 days, depending on the variety. Place it in an area with well-draining soil, and once your patch is established, divide clumps every 3-5 years for best results. Cut back or rake foliage in late fall. 

Virginia Wild Rye 

A close-up of Virginia wild rye seedheads, displaying a rich, deep purple hue against a blurred background of vibrant greens. The intricate seed structure glistens in the sunlight, evoking nature's exquisite artistry.
This grass attracts birds and butterflies and blooms a wheat-like structure in late summer.
botanical-name botanical name Elymus virginicus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2-5 feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

This bright green grass attracts a wide variety of birds and butterflies and grows well in most soils. It is moist-tolerant and deer-resistant.  Virginia wild rye blooms a wheat-like structure in late summer that can be added as a bouquet accent. 

Sow these ornamental grass seeds ¼ inch deep in pots or cell trays, using heat mats if needed to keep them around 65-70°F (18-21°C). Start seeds indoors four weeks before nighttime temperatures are above 50° (10°C). Harden off seedlings and transplant them when they are two to three inches tall. Space them at least one foot apart for best success. 

Seeds can be sown outdoors at the same depth in late fall or early spring. Established plants will re-seed easily. 

Fountaingrass 

A tuft of fountaingrass, bathed in golden sunlight, stands tall, its slender blades dancing in the gentle breeze. Delicate white flowering spikes adorned with a subtle hint of red gracefully sway, adding a touch of elegance to the scene.
Low-growing grass like ‘Red Head Fountain Grass’ can become invasive.
botanical-name botanical name Pennisetum alopecuroides
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 6-12 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9, can survive in zone 5 with protection 

This is a fun, low-growing grass that should be grown in areas with tropical or subtropical climates, similar to their native Africa and Asia. Otherwise, the grass can become difficult to control and may be considered invasive. Try ‘Red Head Fountain Grass’ for a stunning, early-bloomer. 

Fountaingrass features fluffy plumes atop slender, draping foliage. Different varieties bloom white, pink, or red flowers in summer or fall. Add them to a woodland or cottage garden or along a walking path. Giving them a few feet on either side increases airflow and reduces the risk of fungal diseases

Use the milk-jug winter sowing method or direct sow in early spring. Lightly cover and keep cell trays moist. Seeds should germinate in two to three weeks. Wait until the root system is strong and the risk of frost has passed to transplant. Allow plants to establish before the winter. Mulch them to protect the roots, retain moisture, and keep weed pressure down. Split in future years to share or add new plants to another part of your garden. 

Big Bluestem 

A field of brown big bluestem grass reaches skyward against a serene blue backdrop. The afternoon sun's golden hues gently kiss the grass, casting elongated shadows across the landscape.
A grass with shifting hues, big bluestem spreads easily underground.
botanical-name botanical name Andropogon gerardii
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 5-8 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Big Bluestem’s foliage transitions from blue-green in summer to bronzey red in fall, making it a conversation starter all year long. Native to the Midwest, it’s a warm-season grass that peaks in the heat of summer, growing up to five feet tall. In late summer, look for its unique “turkey foot” seed head. It’s drought-resistant once established and grows in most soil types. 

This ornamental grass self-seeds easily and spreads underground by fibrous roots, so plant it in rows, borders, or in a prairie garden where it can spread out. Full sun allows it to perform and look its best. Remove unwanted seedlings in spring. 

Start seeds indoors in spring on heat with access to light. Barely cover seeds and water them from below. Step them up into larger pots when they reach two inches in groups of 3-4 or 6-10, depending on the size of clumps you want to feature in your garden. Transplant after hardening them off and the risk of frost has passed. 

Indiangrass 

A radiant close-up captures the golden hues of Indiangrass as it basks in the warm sunlight. The blurred background unveils a picturesque scene, revealing an expansive canvas of undulating Indiangrass and towering trees.
This is a sprawling, wildlife-attracting plant native to the western US.
botanical-name botanical name Sorghastrum nutans
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 3-8 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Indiangrass is a good option if you have a large amount of space to cover, as it seeds aggressively. It serves as a host plant for butterflies and local game birds. Large stands act as bedding and cover for white-tailed deer, and native bees use the foliage as nesting material. 

Extremely drought-resistant, Indiangrass grows best in sandy soils and at the bottom of prairie hills, found most often in the western half of the United States. Pair it with prairie flowers or other grasses. Lovely golden seed heads form in fall. 

Collect seeds in the fall and store them in a cool, dry place until sowing in spring. Sow ¼ inch deep and grow in the greenhouse in pots or cell trays until they’re over two inches. Harden them off for at least two weeks and transplant them once they have a healthy, fibrous root.

Blue Oat Grass

Four tufts of blue oat grass stand tall, their slender blades shimmering in the sunlight's golden embrace. They create a serene oasis amidst a sea of surrounding weeds, offering a tranquil and vibrant contrast in this natural tapestry.
Preferring cooler climates, this grass can be propagated through division or winter sowing.
botanical-name botanical name Helictotrichon sempervirens
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 1-3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9, some cultivars hardy in zone 3

This mounding, clump-forming grass thrives in cooler weather and provides a unique steel blue shade to gardens. Pair it with Russian sage, bright blue annual flowers, or plant it along borders

Fertilizer should only be necessary if planted in a container, no serious pests or diseases are known, and overall, it’s low-maintenance. Foliage should remain blue-green through mild winters. Otherwise, trim it back to one inch when it goes dormant in winter and rake out the trimmings. 

Dividing blue oat grass is the most popular way to propagate, but winter sowing is a great option when starting this ornamental grass from seed. Germination rates should be higher in spring when seeds are sown in well-draining soil in fall.

Alternatively, sow them in pots and leave them in an unheated area or a cold frame all winter. Transplant them in spring after the risk of frost has passed. Give plants about two feet of space for their textured foliage to spread out and reduce the risk of rust fungus during humid conditions. 

Switchgrass 

A vibrant close-up captures switchgrass basking in the sunlight, revealing its lush green blades. The intricate details unfold as a subtle purple hue delicately graces the tips, adding a touch of elegance to the overall scene.
This grass grows shorter in poor soil but reaches six feet in rich soil.
botanical-name botanical name Panicum virgatum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3-6 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

This tall, whimsical grass is not only lovely, but it serves as a host plant and food source for important butterflies, moths, and native birds. Although it performs fine in poor and sandy soils, switchgrass remains shorter. It grows to be six feet tall in fertile and clay soils. If you prefer a shorter version, try ‘Shenandoah’, which grows just two to three feet tall.

The lacey tops and wispy blades turn a shade of golden in fall but hold up well through the winter. It’s a great option for sloped or wet areas to help erosion due to its deep, fibrous root systems. Keep the area weed-free as you allow slow-growing switchgrass to become established. 

Switchgrass needs a period of cold stratification, so sow it outdoors in fall for the best germination rates. Otherwise, you can freeze it during the winter months and sow it in spring. Sow directly once soil temperatures are above 55°F (13°C) or indoors in light and with added heat.

Seedlings will be ready to transplant in a few short weeks. For a full stand of switchgrass, sow 5 pounds per acre or 2 ounces per 1000 square feet. Drilling gives you the best seed-to-soil contact and improves germination rates. 

Tufted Hairgrass

Tufted hairgrass flourishes amidst the geometric precision of a hexagonal pavement, adding a touch of natural beauty to the structured environment. The delicate blades sway gracefully in response to the gentle breeze.
With its blue-green blades, tufted hairgrass serves as a vital habitat in moist areas.
botanical-name botanical name Deschampsia cespitosa
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial sun to full shade
height height 2-4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

This robust grass loves cool weather and features a blue-green mounding habit of hair-like tufts, just as the name suggests. Light and airy panicles form in the summer, offering greenish-purple florets that transition to tan as they mature.

Tufted hair grass prefers moist, marshy growing areas with rich soil, forming clumps. It serves as a host plant for important butterflies and moths, provides cover for small animals in wetlands, and its seeds provide food for birds. It’s an endangered plant in parts of the US, so add some to your lineup to help your local environment.

Sow these ornamental grass seeds in prepared garden beds in early spring and lightly rake in or sow shallowly in cell trays. Transplant when root systems are strong and can withstand prolonged wet weather. Deadhead and cut back in fall, including seed heads, if you don’t want self-seeding to occur. Otherwise, it remains attractive during the winter months. Tufted hair grass can live for many years with little maintenance. Just ensure its access to shade for best success. 

Vanilla Grass 

A close-up of slender brown seedheads adorning delicate green stems of vanilla grass, gently swaying in the breeze, catching the warm sunlight. The blurred background reveals lush greenery, accentuating the vividness of the focused seedheads and stems.
This has a lovely vanilla scent and requires careful germination.
botanical-name botanical name Anthoxanthum odoratum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1-2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

Named for its captivating vanilla scent, vanilla grass is also called sweetgrass, and it’s a perennial heirloom that is tricky to germinate but is hardy once well-established

Vanilla grass is evergreen and is often grown in containers due to its potentially aggressive nature. Don’t allow the seeds to spread in the fall to avoid volunteer seedlings in spring. 

Sow indoors in moist and well-draining soil six to eight weeks before your last frost. Do not let the seeds dry out. They should germinate within two weeks. Direct sow seeds outside in spring, but since germination rates are naturally low, sowing indoors is recommended. 

Millet

A millet plant flourishes on the roadside, its cattail-like spikes basking in sunlight, showcasing a rich brown hue. The blurred background reveals lush bushes and a clouded blue sky.
‘Purple Majesty’ millet was famed for winning the All-America Selections Gold Medal.
botanical-name botanical name Pennisetum glaucum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 2-5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-11

The original ornamental millet ‘Purple Majesty’ was developed at the University of Nebraska and has gained popularity since it won the All-America Selections Gold Medal in 2003. Try ‘Jade Princess’ for a compact option that has contrasting green, fountain-like foliage. 

Young cattail-like spikes can be harvested and added to wild bouquets, while seeds provide food to many species of birds. Pair dark purple cultivars with the striking orange of calendula or zinnias. Mix in a variety of heights and textures to make a real statement.

Start seeds indoors in spring for the best chance at fully mature and tall stalks. Germination occurs within just a few days on a heat mat between 72-78°F (22-26°C) and should not be transplanted until the soil is warm.

Rootbound seedlings will not grow properly or will be stunted, so don’t start seeds too early. Millet originates in tropical areas. It grows best when temperatures are between 91-95°F (32-35°C). You can direct sow, but growth won’t be as impressive, especially where summers are mild. Dropped seeds will not survive freezing.

Greater Quaking Grass 

A close-up of a brown flowering spike of the Greater Quaking Grass, illuminated by the golden sunlight. The blurred backdrop features greenery, creating a harmonious contrast and emphasizing the spike's natural beauty.
This whimsical grass adds carefree charm to gardens and bouquets with its golden, dancing seedheads.
botanical-name botanical name Briza maxima
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 20-30 inches 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

This interesting grass features ½ – 1-inch seedheads on thin, whimsical stems that transition from green to golden when left on the plant to dry. When harvested fresh and added to a bouquet, the seemingly dancing or quaking seedheads make it seem carefree and fun. 

Rattlesnake grass, as it’s sometimes referred to, is perfect for cottage gardens, wild gardens, meadows, or in mass alongside colorful annuals like zinnias, cosmos, or salvia. The plants are deer and drought-resistant. Harvest seeds when they’re still green before pollen is shed and they shatter. 

Start these ornamental grass seeds indoors five to seven weeks before transplanting in late spring. Sow them ⅛ inch deep into 72-cell trays. Transplant them out to a well-draining area at 9-12 inches after the risk of frost has passed. 

Fiber Optic Grass

In a dark soil bed, a tuft of fiber optic grass flourishes, soaking up the sunlight's golden embrace. Its lush green blades elegantly showcase delicate, earth-toned blooms, adding a charming contrast to the verdant scenery.
Resembling fiber optic nightlights, this ornamental grass features blueish-green blades.
botanical-name botanical name Isolepis cernua
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 6-12 inches 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-11

This grass is named as such due to its resemblance to the fiber optic nightlights from the 90s that glowed in ever-changing colors. The centers spike upwards but spill over, creating a full mop-head look. This tender sedge has fine, low-growing, blueish-green blades with a mounding habit featuring a small, silvery flower on the tips of each. 

Compact enough for containers and displayed on patios, it also adds unusual textural flair spaced between bright, cutting gardens. Plant it near a pond or add it to a fairy garden. 

Start seeds in small pots in spring using a moist seed starting mix and barely cover. Use a humidity dome to retain moisture until germination. Step up into larger pots as needed for the entire first season, transplanting it out the following spring after the risk of frost has passed to its permanent garden place. Bring plants indoors or keep them warm over the winter months.

Savannah Grass

A vast expanse of golden-brown savannah grass undulates gently, rippling in the wind's embrace. The tall blades dance rhythmically, creating a mesmerizing symphony of motion that stretches as far as the eye can see.
Plant this grass annually using fresh seeds, spacing them 9-12 inches apart.
botanical-name botanical name Melinis nerviglumis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 18-24 inches 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones Tender perennial in zones 9-10

Savannah grass matures in 100-120 days, perfect for late-season arrangements. It features slender green stems and sparkly, dusty rose-gold panicles. 

Plant this ornamental in mass along a border for a romantic vibe, in the center of large containers, or to add charm to a cutting garden. The blades at the base tend to mound, whereas the stems stand erect from the center, making them easy to harvest. 

Start this tender perennial each season from fresh seeds sown in 72-cell trays and given plenty of light to germinate. Germination may take up to three weeks at 70-75°F (21-23°C). Transplant after the risk of frost has passed. Space them at 9-12 inches. 

Black Tip Wheat

A close-up reveals the intricate details of black-tip wheat's vibrant green awns, delicately branching out like nature's artwork, showcasing the unique and mesmerizing form of this cereal crop. The sunlight accentuates the graceful contours of the wheat.
A unique durum wheat variety, black tip wheat adds texture to bouquets.
botanical-name botanical name Triticum durum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 24-36 inches 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10-12

This will fancy up a summer or fall bouquet instantly. Also called durum wheat, it has unique buff kernels and long, distinctively purplish-black awns, which add textural interest. 

Plant this wheat with other summer-blooming annuals; it matures in about 80 days. Collect dried seed pods in fall to save for next season. 

Direct sowing four weeks before the last frost date is recommended. Leave about two inches in between plants and sow them at ¼ inch, then cover. Press the soil down to provide good seed-to-soil contact and water them in. They should germinate in 5-10 days. When newly seeded, durum wheat can handle some light frost. 

Frosted Explosion 

A mesmerizing close-up captures the intricate beauty of white panicles of frosted explosion, delicately clinging to green leaves and stems. The fine, icy crystals glisten against the blurred backdrop of a dark, earthly ground, creating a stunning contrast.
A prolific summer bouquet addition, frosted explosion grass features interesting tufts and blades.
botanical-name botanical name Panicum elegans
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height Up to 2 feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones Tender perennial in zones 9-10

Frosted explosion adds a light and romantic feel to any summer bouquet. Featuring airy tufts alongside tall, corn-like blades, it’s low-maintenance and prolific. 

Moist and well-draining soil is preferred. Space plants at about six inches. Water during dry spells to keep the blades from browning. Continuous harvests and deadheading keep fresh tufts coming all season. 

Start seeds indoors and barely cover them as light aids in germination. Start the process about five to six weeks before transplanting. Temperatures of 60-65°F (16-18°C) assist in germination, which takes about two weeks.

Pro tip: Newly germinated, frosted explosion resembles grass and may be mistaken for weed seeds, so be sure to mark your patch. This is also why direct sowing is not recommended. 

Feathertop 

Lush feathertop grass showcases deep green stems, creating a dense and picturesque backdrop. Delicate bottlebrush flowers emerge from the verdant sea of feathertop grass, their white petals adorned with a subtle hint of purple, forming an elegant contrast.
Start seeds indoors and transplant into sunny, warm areas for continuous blooms.
botanical-name botanical name Pennisetum villosum 
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height Up to 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones Tender perennial in zones 9-10

This fun and fluffy grass has been saved for last for a reason; it’s my favorite! I always grow a small patch and add one to every bouquet as our small farm’s signature. Add them to the center of containers, along a cottage garden border, or in mass in a fresh-cut flower garden. 

Feathertop is best started fresh from seed each season. Leave the tufts to dry on the plant and harvest them in late summer to save the seeds. 

Sow seeds indoors 5-7 weeks before your last frost. Sprinkle them into strip trays or 128-cell trays and just barely cover them with vermiculite. Seeds should germinate in about two weeks when put on a heat mat set to 65-70°F (18-21°C). Transplant them into a well-aerated area in full sun when the soil has warmed, and the risk of frost has passed. Keep them deadheaded for fresh and continuous blooms.

Final Thoughts 

With lots of annual and perennial options, ornamental grasses add height, texture, and visual interest to all types of gardens. Whether you’re starting seeds for the first time or are an avid gardener, there is something for all levels of expertise. I hope you found something you’re looking forward to trying this season.

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