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Unique Colorful Grasses for all Soil Types and Sun for Zone 7

We normally identify grasses as green but sometimes we need something that will add  texture, a little bit of architecture and break up the monotony of green in our garden.  To accomplish this, consider introducing some of these great looking colorful grasses into your garden.

All Gold Japanese Forest Grass

All Gold Japanese Forest Grass

First up we have the All Gold Japanese forest grass also known as Gold Hakone grass. This is probably one of the best looking most interesting grasses you can find.  More importantly, unlike most grasses, this one can be grown in the shade. It will light up your shady spot like nothing else!

This grass is pretty easy to grow and will tolerate the heat here in the south provided you have it shaded during the hottest parts of the day. You also need to remember to water this regularly as it is not particularly drought tolerant though it will take some drought just fine. Some decent soil is also important. No need to go crazy if you have clay soil as I do. Just amend your clay with hummusy type soil. I use the Evergreen brand from Home Depot/Lowed, only $1.25 a bag and plants love it.  Like all other grasses it can be transplanted and separated without much heartache though it will take some time to get to a good size before you can separate. Another great quality is that it stays relatively short, perhaps 2-3 feet tall.

One of the important things to keep in mind is that it grows somewhat slow so getting a good size clump to start will make a huge difference.  This one is a relatively new introduction so it’s not over planted and is very unique.

Flame Grass

Flame Grass

Next is Flame Grass, as the name suggests this one turns redish-orange as fall approaches. Blades start off a medium green and gradually turn red at the tips as summer progresses.

This is another easy grower that will grow just fine in average soils and will take half day to all day sun though full sun is recommended, you probably want to put it in a spot that will be shaded into the hotter parts of the day. It will require regular waterings as it’s not very drought tolerant.  Growth rate is average and will reach 3 to 4 foot at maturity but again, it’s nice to start with a good size specimen. Works great as either a single specimen or in mass. Particularly attractive when mixed with other plants and shrubs.

Flame grass is an excellent choice to add some color especially going into the fall as the reds and oranges really begin to show. This is another favorite colorful grass that is not particularly over planted here in the south like say Pampas grass. Very unique and great looking grass.

Shanendoah Switch Grass

Shanendoah Switch Grass

Finally, we have the Shenandoah Switch Grass. This is another grass that gains color as the summer goes along.  Similar to the Flame grass but with stronger hues of red and burgundy into the fall.  Strong colors make this one particularly interesting as a specimen plant that will contrast nicely with red to purple color schemes in the garden.

Standing in at about 4 foot at maturity, Shenandoah Switch grass is one of the smaller switch grass varieties available so if you like switch grass but want something more compact then this one will work great. Unlike the previous two grasses, this one will tolerate a hot dry site with occasional waterings. It will also tolerate an average to clay alkaline soils. Full sun is best to get the most out of its color. Not a particularly fast grower but the colors make this one well worth the wait.

A great looking colorful grass that will stand on it’s own or mixed into a matching color scheme, the Shenandoah switch grass is both versatile and relatively easy to grow in just about any condition. This is another grass that is not seen very often if at all here in the south so again, you will score high uniqueness points by adding this to your garden.

Less mowing/less watering low growth grasses and grass alternatives

Sedum grass alternative

Sedum grass alternative

Tired of mowing for 6 to 8 months out of the year? Want to be more Eco-friendly? I may have a solution for you. Alternative grasses. They really aren’t considered grasses by most of us – clover, sedum,creeping vines – but they make beautiful additions to our yards and at the same time, save us work, money and give us a yard that is one of a kind.

Why would you want to get rid of grass and plant clover, sedum or anything other than gleaming grass that glows it’s so green? Because these options require low watering and occasional mowing, if any. If you want to keep grass in your yard, there are plenty of low growing options. Some of these grow under 3″ per season. Bella Bluegrass is one of these – growing only 3-4″ tall. This grass stays green all year in the south…..no more brown grass! Bella is disease resistant and the deep roots reduce the amount of watering needed. Can you say, cheaper water bills?! Clover, sedum, creeping vines,double bird’s foot trefoil, any of these could be used alongside any low growing grass to create a truly unique lawn and garden. Pearl’s Premium Ultra is also a good low growth grass. It offers much the same as the Bella Bluegrass as it is disease resistant, stays green and grows at 1/4 the rate of Bluegrass. Pearl’s offers a sunny and a shady mix.

Bella Bluegrass

Bella Bluegrass

I’m not saying dig up your entire yard and plant a bunch of clover, although you could if you wanted to. I’m challenging you to think out of the box and create little havens in your yard. Start by sectioning off a 12×12 area that may be unsightly or difficult for gardening. Use a rototiller to break up the soil, while mixing in good, organic compost from your own garden or from your local store. Plant clover, Sedum, Purple New Zealand Bur or a mix of anything you choose. Use rocks, pavers or any sort of stone to create a sanctuary of relaxation. Once you get the hang of it and see just how little work you will have to do on a regular basis, you will want to incorporate this idea into bigger sections of your yard.

Still not convinced? Think of the money saved on watering, gas for your mower, chemicals used from fertilizers, not to mention the pollutants that come from gas powered mowers and the chemicals from fertilizers that get into our water systems wreaking havoc on the ecosystem. Short grasses and alternative grasses added to your yard will reduce your mowing time by more than 50%, add beauty and give you peace of mind knowing you are helping the environment. Once your yard is complete, then naturally your neighbors will follow your lead. Pretty soon, you’ve started a local movement. Make this a “must do” on your gardening list this year. You’ll be so grateful you did.

Drought tolerant flowering ground cover

Moss Roses

Moss Roses

Moss Roses are for me, a new idea in the garden. My husband and I live in a state of “extremes”. Extreme heat, extreme cold, excessive rain and snow, you get the picture. All of these excessive weather elements have made it hard for us to find what really works where we live – kind of a trial and error for us. In the summer we get some serious heat with little to no rain for weeks at a time.

I’ve found a plant that can handle that, and that’s the Moss Rose. It does well pretty much anywhere dry; rock gardens, paver walkways and paths, along driveways, strawberry pots, etc. Moss Roses don’t grow very tall, only 4-8 inches, spreading to about 2 feet, so they are best suited as a ground cover. You could put them in strawberry pots or regular pots along with taller plants and put them on your deck or patio. They offer vibrant colors of red, orange and yellow and a bright green foliage.

These plants are great for people that forget to water because it’s encouraged to let them dry out before the next
watering, which should be sparingly when you do water. In fact, they thrive in heat and drought. The only downside
is that they don’t return the next year – meaning, you can’t leave them in he ground if you are prone to cold winters in your area. You could however, take them out of the ground and put them in a good mix of soil and sand in front of a sunny window. Once the end of winter has arrived, plant outdoors in a sunny spot.Give these cheery little plants a try, they’re sure to be a favorite addition to your garden.

How to Grow Rudbeckia Maxima Dumbo Ear Coneflower in Zone 7

Rudbeckia Maxima Dumbo Ear Coneflower

Rudbeckia Maxima Dumbo Ear Coneflower

If you want something amazing that nobody else is going to have in your neighborhood, consider the Rudbeckia Maxima. The Rudbeckia Maxima is perfect if you want to add some height in your garden. These incredible flowers grow stalks that are well over 6 feet with a great looking and large coneflower on top. The stalks are extremely rigid and the plant is very well rooted once established so they do not need any sort of staking. The flowers are very long lasting and after they fade, you are left with an interesting black cone full of seeds that birds love to eat. While these are grown for their flowers, their enormous basal leaves are just as incredible. Each leaf can get about 12″ long or more and are a blue steel color turning to green later in the season. The clump can get a few feet wide so some space will be required.


Growing these is very easy so long as you have a full sun spacious spot. They are relatively drought tolerant though I like to water mine on a regular basis because they are some of my favorites. ForThe Rudbeckia Maxima is an incredibly fast growing flowering perennial. I started out with some young plants that were pretty small and had a full grown plant the following season. They were planted late in the season so most of the growth was put on in less than a year. Another great thing about this plant is that it can be planted at just about any time during the growing season as they are extremely tough plants. I planted mine in the middle of the summer and they came through like champs. They are not particular about soil. Just amend some decent garden soil with your native soil and plant them. Water regularly until established then watch them grow like crazy. While it may not look it when you get it, keep in mind that these get huge! They grow well over 6 feet so keep that in mind.

Care is very easy.  You can leave the stalks for most of the growing season until they dry up completely. You can then just clip them off. You will need some strong pruners because the stalks are very strong.  Leave the leaves to overwinter as many of them will remain green. You can  clean up all the dead leaves in the spring and leave the surviving green ones.   All in all, a very care free plant.

Finding these will locally will probably be tricky. Sure you will see lots of regular old coneflowers  but these might prove hard to find. Luckily, you can get them via internet mail order  from Blue Stone Perennials. I have bought 6 from them and they have all done great.  I highly suggest you give these a try, you will love them and your neighbors will stop by asking you what they are!

Evergreen Euphorbia for Dry and Hot Full Sun Areas

Heat Tolerant Zone 7 Euphorbia

Heat Tolerant Zone 7 Euphorbia

One of my favorites is the Euphorbia.  This Mediterranean native is perfect for those extremely hot and dry areas of your garden. Even in the heat of the summer here in zone 7, the Euphorbia stays upright and colorful.  Despite it’s bullet proofness, this plant has the daintiest, unique and delicate little flowers you will ever see.  Quite amazing for a really tough plant.  The plant has an upright branching habit growing to about 1-2 feet and comes in variety of colors like green, red, burgundy and purple. The lovely blooms are usually brilliant in color in most varieties and are quite stunning when they emerge in late spring, early summer. This is a great little plant that looks great year around.

Despite its great all around qualities, you will be hard pressed in finding these at a local nursery. I have never seen them myself and ordered some via internet mail order from Directgardening.com and they have done absolutely great.

Care is very easy with this great accent border plant.  Being a Mediterranean native, heat is not a problem. It’s toughness is only surpassed by its great looks.  Very drought tolerant but it should be watered somewhat regularly when first planted until it’s established. Not very particular about soil, simply amend some garden soil with your native soil and this plant will do great. Takes winters like a champ as well. You may get a little die back on the top, simply clip off the dead areas if any and that’s it.

Now for a bit of a dark side. When cutting back, these plants secrete a white sap from the cut stems. Extreme care should be taken to keep this sap from your hands. Even more care should be taken from keeping the sap out of your face and eyes! The sap is toxic and known to cause temporary blindness. Wear gloves and wash hands thoroughly after cutting back! There are stories of people being hospitalized from getting the sap in their eyes. Make sure to keep children away from these plants. Also keep your dogs away! That being said, don’t let this keep you from planting these magnificent looking plants, just keep their toxicity in mind!

All in all, an awesome little plant that you will simply love. You won’t be able to plant enough of these, guaranteed!

Hardiness Zones: 5-8
Sun exposure: Full Sun to Mostly Sunny
Height: about 18?
Width: Varies up to 12″
Bloom time: Late spring, early summer
Bloom Color: varies from brilliant yellow to chartreuse
Watering: Average
Soil: Average, normal, amended clay

Availability: Direct Gardening, Bluestone Perennials