The 13 Best Ornamental Grasses for Fall Color

feather reed grass

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Ornamental grasses are wonderful for adding multiple seasons of interest in the garden. Whether grouped in clusters or planted singly as focal points, ornamental grasses add instant texture and form to the garden at any time of the year. The grasses listed here are especially useful for adding fall color to the landscape. Some even look great throughout winter.

  • 01 of 13

    Blue Oat Grass

    Helictotrichon sempervirens sapphire blue oat grass background
    skymoon13 / Getty Images

    Blue Oat Grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens) forms a tidy porcupine-like clump, in the garden. It keeps its beautiful blue color all season, accenting it in the fall with light brown terminal panicles. Blue oat grass can remain evergreen through winter. USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9

  • 02 of 13

    Feather Reed Grass

    Feather Reed Grass Overdam
    Georgianna Lane / Getty Images

    Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora) is a cool season plant and will be one of the first ornamental grasses to shoot up in spring. It will also be one of the first to go to seed. 'Stricta' and 'Karl Foerster' will have reddish seed pods and 'Overdam', shown here, turns golden. USDA Hardiness Zones 4 - 9

  • 03 of 13

    Flame Grass

    Miscanthus sinensis 'Silberfeder', arching ornamental perennial grass
    Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

    Flame Grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Purpurascens')  can be a very flashy addition to your fall garden. The flowers burst into a red blaze of bloom, at eye level. Although it is still classified as Miscanthus sinensis it differs in appearance from the more common maiden grasses and may not be a relation at all.  USDA Hardiness Zones 3 - 8

  • 04 of 13

    Fountain Grass

    Plume Grass / Pennisetum Alopecuroides
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    Fountain Grasses (Pennisetum alopecuroides ) are some of the most reliable and attractive ornamental grasses you can grow. 'Rubrum' here, keeps its red color all season. Pennisetum 'Moudry' is another good choice for fall color. Its leaves stay green as its flowers change to burgundy. Hardiness Zones 4 - 9

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  • 05 of 13

    Japanese Forest Grass

    Close Up of Variegated Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra)
    Joshua McCullough / Getty Images

    Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola') looks good at any time of the year, but the golden yellow color is a great foil for all the purples, rusts and reds in the fall garden. This is a slow growing grass, with a weeping habit. USDA Hardiness Zones 5 - 9

  • 06 of 13

    New Zealand Flax

    New Zealand Flax (Phormium) 'Sundowner Jester'
    Colin Varndell / Getty Images

    New Zealand Flax (Phormium) USDA is not a grass, but it is often used like one. These spiky plants come in an array of colors for a season, but those with bronze and purples in their leaves become focal points in fall. They also look great in containers. Hardiness Zones 9 - 10

  • 07 of 13

    Pheasant's-Tail Grass

    Pheasant's-tail grass (Anemanthele lessoniana)
    Megan Hansen/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

    Pheasant's-tail grass (Anemanthele lessoniana) is an open form grass that sways and follows the breeze. It's also known as gossamer grass or New Zealand wind grass. In fall, the leaf blades become tinged with copper streaks that reflect the sun. USDA Hardiness Zones 8 - 10

  • 08 of 13

    Pink Muhly Grass

    Pink Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris)
    Zen Rial / Getty Images

    Pink Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) isn't a tall grass, topping out at about 3 ft., but it sure is flashy. In late summer, it becomes covered in pink-hued flower heads that catch every breeze and add a cloud of soft color to the garden. USDA Hardiness Zones 7 - 11

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  • 09 of 13

    Prairie Dropseed

    Prairie Dropseed Ornamental Grass
    JPLDesigns / Getty Images

    Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) has thin, airy leaves that create a weeping habit. In cool, fall weather, the leaves can turn almost pumpkin orange. USDA Hardiness Zones 3 - 9 

  • 10 of 13

    Red Hood Sedge

    Red Hood Sedge (Uncinia rubra)
    Anne Green-Armytage / Getty Images

    Red Hood (Uncinia uncinata 'rubra') is a sedge, not a grass, but it's a well behaved one. The plant is small, growing only about a foot in all directions, but it has a glowing bronze color all season, that's all the more noticeable in the fall. USDA Hardiness Zones 8 - 11

  • 11 of 13

    Red Switch Grass

    Red Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum)
    Kate Gadsby / Getty Images

    Red Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum) 'Shenandoah' is the shortest, slowest growing, and showiest of all the red switch grasses. It starts to change from green to red, early in the growing season. by fall, it's on fire. USDA Hardiness Zones 5 - 9  

  • 12 of 13

    Tall Moor Grass

    Tall moor grass (Molinia caerulea subsp. arundinacea)
    Francois De Heel / Getty Images

    Tall Moor Grass (Molinia caerulea subsp. arundinacea) sits at about 3 ft. tall, most of the season. Toward fall, it sends up 6 - 7 ft. delicate flower stalks and turns a seasonal golden yellow. It's narrow width and tall flowers make it perfect for a small garden. USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9

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  • 13 of 13

    Vetiver Grass

    Vetiver Grass
    tusumaru / Getty Images

    Vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides, syn. Vetiveria zizanioides) forms a thick clump that can reach heights of 4 - 5 ft. Its light green leaves develop a bronze cast, as the weather cools. USDA Hardiness Zones 7 - 10

    For more color in your fall garden consider fall blooming perennials and the fall foliage and fruits of shrubs and vines.