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Northern California Regional Reports

Drought-Tolerant Ornamental Grasses

Four favorites for the water-wise gardener

‘Blonde Ambition’ blue grama. Photo: Fionuala Campion.

Ornamental grasses come in different heights, habits, forms, and colors—from low-growing, tidy tufts and arching mid-height mounds to tall, towering, back-of-the-border beauties. They differ in light, soil, water, and care requirements, but all offer the gardener the opportunity to enliven garden borders and containers with their distinctive texture and grace. Fine-textured foliage, intriguing blooms, and long-lasting seed heads add interest to garden beds. They soften hard edges of boulders, walls, or buildings and provide a refreshing contrast to foliage plants and blooming perennials alike.

Contrary to popular opinion, many ornamental grasses differ radically from their moisture-loving lawn-grass relatives and are quite drought tolerant once established. Check out my top four favorites for the Northern Californian water-wise landscape.

‘Undaunted’ pink muhly grass
‘Undaunted’ pink muhly grass. Photo: Emerald Coast Growers.

‘Undaunted’ pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia reverchonii ‘Undaunted’, Zones 5–10)

This is a long-lived, low-maintenance, heat- and drought-tolerant warm-season grass that begins the growing season quietly…

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