Ornamental Grasses for Privacy

Gardeners who want to block a neighbor's yard or screen a patio without building a structure should look no further than perennial ornamental grasses. Unlike evergreen trees and shrubs, ornamental grasses grow very quickly, usually reaching their mature size in two seasons. Their fast growth rate also makes ornamental grasses ideal for privacy hedges: If one specimen dies, you won't be left with a gap while you wait for a new planting to play catch up with the others. Ornamental grasses are also a very economical way to achieve privacy on your property. A two-quart sized pot of many common ornamental grasses cost less than $10 at the hardware store. Discover eight ornamental grasses that will instantly create a private space in your landscape. 

  • 01 of 08

    Zebra Grass

    Zebra Grass
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    Variegated foliage has never been a hotter trend in the garden, so adding a handsome stand of zebra grass Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus' will afford privacy while complementing your landscape design. Like other grasses in the maiden grass family, zebra grass needs full sun, good soil drainage, and regular watering to reach its lush 5- to 8-foot potential. 

  • 02 of 08

    Hardy Clumping Bamboo

    Hardy Clumping Bamboo
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    Yes, bamboo is a grass, albeit a very large grass. Although bamboo plants have gotten a reputation as invasive garden thugs, by planting the clumping type rather than those that spread by runners, you can maintain a well-behaved plant. Look for bamboo plants in the Fargesia genus, which are both slow-growing and cold hardy. Fargesia robusta can grow up to 17 feet tall, great for blocking the view of that neighbor who peers down from a second story window.

  • 03 of 08

    Pampas Grass

    Plume Grass
    Danita Delimont / Getty Images

    ​The tender variety of pampas grass, Cortaderia selloana, only grows in zones 8-10 and can be invasive in mild areas. However, you can find a hardier version of this in Saccharum ravennae, also known as plume grass or ravenna grass. This North African native is your answer to screening out big uglies like broken down cars, as it can reach an impressive 12 feet in height. Bronze plumes appear in the fall; the plant is a sun lover and grows in zones 5-9. 

  • 04 of 08

    Feather Reed Grass

    Feather Reed Grass
    Matt Anker / Getty Images

    Like other reed grasses, feather reed grasses like the popular cultivar 'Karl Foerster' need above-average moisture conditions fo thrive. Feather reed grass doesn't mind heavy clay soils that drain slowly. If you have a rain garden and want a low-maintenance, medium-height screening plant, feather reed grass will meet your needs. The plants will tolerate some shade, and attract birds as well. 

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  • 05 of 08

    Big Bluestem

    Big Bluestem Grass
    Ross Frid / Getty Images

    This native grass is a great plant-it-and-forget-it choice for privacy plantings. If you had lived in the Midwest 200 years ago, you would have seen large swaths of Andropogon gerardii covering most of the prairie. Neither deer nor drought​ can faze this tough grass. Provide the grass with full sun, and it will adapt to a range of soil conditions. Regular irrigation yields the tallest plants; up to eight feet in height.

  • 06 of 08

    Pink Hair Grass

    Muhly Grass
    Zen Rial / Getty Images

    Muhlenbergia capillaris is another native beauty that beginning gardeners can grow with little effort. Plants top out at about four feet, making it perfect for a patio edging that provides some screening for a seating area. Showy pink flowers appear in September and linger to give the garden some winter interest. Pink hair grass tolerates lean soils and dry conditions and will help to ease erosion on slopes. Pink hair grass may not survive the winters of the upper midwest, but planting it in a sheltered area in a raised bed can stretch the zone 5 limits. 

  • 07 of 08

    Fountain Grass

    Fountain Grass
    Jerry Pavia / Getty Images

    Pennisetum alopecuroides is so pretty, with its fuzzy catkins waving in the summer breeze on five-foot plants. Some dwarf cultivars exist, so read the plant tag carefully before purchase if you want to use fountain grass plants for a privacy screen. Fountain grass likes moisture and warm weather and is reliably hardy to zone 6. 

  • 08 of 08


    Switchgrass Shenandoah
    Mark Turner / Getty Images

    Panicum virgatum is an adaptable grass that thrives in moist and dry locations. Although switchgrass is a native plant that still grows throughout North America east of the Rocky Mountains, lovely cultivars like the red 'Shenandoah' have improved upon what was already an important plant in the ecosystem, providing oil-rich seeds for birds in winter. Plants need full sun to maintain an upright growth habit, and moist soils are desirable.