Grasses for Fall Color

fall grasses

Many residents of the Midwestern (Zone 5) area want more than just summer blooms within their gardens, they also want autumn colors. Many folks think of trees and shrubs for fall color, but ornamental grasses also offer exceptional fall color.

Grasses offering RED fall colors:

  • Imperata ‘Red Baron’ – Japanese blood grass – under 2 feet – Foliage turns red in late summer – Plume-less
  • Miscanthus ‘Adagio’ – dwarf maiden grass – 3 feet high – Plumes emerge pink, then turns to white
  • Miscanthus ‘Grazella’ – maiden grass – 5-6 feet high – Foliage turns red in early fall – White plumes in August
  • Miscanthus ‘ Purpurascens’ – flame grass – 3-5 feet high – Foliage turns red in mid-summer, changing to deep burgundy in fall – Cottony plumes in August
  • Panicum ‘Ruby Ribbons’ – switch grass – 3-4 feet high – Foliage becomes red-wine colored by mid summer – Plumes appear in late summer
  • Panicum ‘Prairie Fire’ – switch grass hybrid – 4-5 feet high – Foliage turns deep red in early summer – Rosy panicles in late summer
  • Schizachyrium scoparium – little bluestem – 2-3 feet high – Foliage turns red-bronze in fall – Plumes are silvery-white in August

Grasses offering ORANGE fall colors:

  • Seslria autumnalis – moor grass – 12-18 inches high – Foliage turns warm rust in fall – Plumes appear summer into fall
  • Miscanthus ‘Nippon’ – maiden grass – 4 feet high – Foliage turns red-orange in fall – Reddish-bronze panicles develop in August
  • Sporobolus heterolepsis – prairie dropseed – 2-3 feet high – Foliage is fragrant and turns rust colored in fall

Grasses offering BURGUNDY fall colors:

  • Panicum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’ – red switch grass – 3-4 feet high – Foliage emerges green with red tips, depending on the weather, may develop burgundy hue – Scarlet-red panicles emerge in mid summer
  • Panicum ‘Shenandoah’ – red switch grass – 4 feet high – Foliage develops burgundy tips in early summer – Burgundy panicles appear in mid summer
  • Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ – variegated maiden grass – Foliage remains variegated – Burgundy plumes fade to cream color
  • Miscanthus ‘Silver Feather’ or ‘Silberfeder’ – maiden grass – Foliage blends into burgundy, purple, and gold – Silver plumes in late summer

Grasses offering YELLOW fall color:

  • Molinia ‘Dauerstrahl’ or ‘Faithful Ray’ – purple moor grass – 2 feet high – Foliage turns yellow in early fall
  • Molinia caerulea ‘Strahlenquelle’ or ‘Source of Rays’ –  purple moor grass – 18-24 inches high – Foliage turns golden yellow in fall – Purplish plumes appear from July through October
  • Molinia ‘Skyracer’ – tall purple moor grass – 7-8 feet high – Foliage turns golden yellow in fall – Airy, copper-gold plumes appear in July and August
  •  Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’ – switch grass – 3-5 feet high – Foliage turns bright yellow in fall – Pink plumes develop into buff colored seed heads
  •  Panicum ‘Northwind’ – switch grass – 5-6 feet high – Foliage turns golden yellow in fall – Seed heads are small

11 thoughts on “Grasses for Fall Color

  1. I guess I was thinking of this Mexican bamboo (Polygonum cuspidatum) and a search shows it is not a true bamboo.

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    • Ah! I had to look it up myself, no Polygonum cuspidatum is not what I call bamboo, I know it as knotweed.
      What I CAN get is: Arundinaria gigantean – Giant Reed, Fargesia murielae – Umbrella bamboo, Fargesia rufa – Rufa bamboo, Phyllostachys aureosulcata – Yellow groove bamboo, and lastly Pleioblastus auricome var. chrysophyllus – Golden Kamuro-Zasa. I’ve not done any research on these (I smell a blog post brewing!!), but they are available at one of my local nurseries.

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