Grow Great New Grasses

The ornamental grasses revolution, now more than two decades old, shows no signs of ebbing. And no wonder. These drought tolerant, unfussy and low-maintenance plants are ideal for San Diego gardens. Here are some to plant now to establish during upcoming rains.

  • Pennisetum setaceum ‘Fireworks’ – This new fountain grass dazzles with variegated pink and white-striped foliage. As the seasons change, a rich purple is added to the mix. In the summer, purple tassels dance above the handsome 2-3-foot tall clumps. Cut back to 6-8 inches tall in early spring to freshen. 
  • Muhlenbergia dubia (Pine Muhly Grass) – This elegant Southwest native grows only 12-18-inches tall and forms compact clumps of light-green foliage that fades to tan. Cream flowers rise on slender stalks more than 2 feet in height in late summer. Very adaptable to varied growing conditions. Unappetizing to deer.
  • Muhlenbergia rigida (Nashville Grass) – Another compact grass 2 feet tall and wide, this upright muhly grass has fine textured, light green leaves and fall-blooming purple flowers that fade to wheat. Cut back in spring to reinvigorate.
  • Muhlenbergia emersleyi (El Toro or Bull Grass) –The attractive blue-green, thin-bladed foliage of this Arizona-Texas native grass form tight clumps 2 feet tall and wide. In fall, loose flower panicles in a dusky purple dangle on stiff 3-4-foot long stems. One of the most drought-tolerant grasses.
  • Lomandra longifolia ‘The Breeze’ –This 30-inch tall and wide cultivar of a tough Australian native has graceful shiny deep-green blades that gently arch. In spring and fall, creamy yellow flowers cluster like a lacy crinoline around its base. Once established, this grass maintains its good looks on minimal water. Trim every five years.
  • Dianella caerulea ‘Cassa Blue’ – Distinctive blue-green foliage in vase-shaped clumps is only part of the appeal of this architectural hybrid of another Aussie native. Dainty yellow-throated dark blue flowers appear on tall stems in spring and summer and are followed by glowing blue berries.
  • Dianella revoluta ‘Little Rev’ and ‘Big Rev– These flax lilies send up stiff, straight foliage that on ‘Little Rev’ is a smoky blue-gray and on ‘Big Rev’ is green on top and blue-green underneath. Both are compact, drought tolerant good companions for succulents and Mediterranean-climate plants.


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