This past year’s focus has been on plants suited to our growing conditions. The right plant in the right location is desired for its established carefree nature. Supplemental water this year would have made these plants look better but not necessary for survival. Ornamental grasses fall into the category of carefree plants and many put on an extra show in the fall.

Now is a good time to be out and enjoying ornamental grasses. They come in all sizes and grow in any given environment. While most will do best in full sun, there are a few for more shady sites. Take note of ones you like and see if it will work in your location.

Grasses are categorized as warm-season or cool-season. All of them can be planted in the spring and given the summer to grow. Often these grasses grow well and need divided to keep them to their allotted space.

One of my favorite grasses is Pennisetum “Karley Rose.” This warm-season grass blooms early and over a long time with pink blossoms that turn tan. The height is 44 inches with a spread of 59 inches. Full sun and a moist soil are best.

Perhaps the most common cool-season grass is the “Karl Foerster” feather reed. The tan flower is at its peak in appearance right now. It’s height of 25 inches with the bloom reaching up to 43 inches is desirable for many landscapes.

Native grasses like Little Bluestem and Prairie Dropseed can be worked into the landscape. There are cultivars of grasses that will add desirable characteristics to add interest to the property.

At this time of the year, the grasses start to get there fall color. Their added bloom height enhances their sway from the wind. Dew and frost will make them glisten against sunlight. It is time to appreciate the grasses as they approach dormancy. The foliage is removed any time prior to new growth in the spring.

You can find out more information on gardening by going to Riley County’s K-State Research and Extension website at You may contact Gregg Eyestone at the Riley County office of K-State Research and Extension by calling 537-6350, stopping by 110 Courthouse Plaza in Manhattan or emailing

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