Festuca ‘Cool As Ice’ en masse-rotarybotanicalgarden.org

In my last post, I discussed perennials that are evergreen and make great groundcovers. This time, I’m going to suggest some ornamental grasses and sedges.

Although most ornamental grasses do not remain evergreen, the few that do would serve well in these situations but you would need to plant them more closely in order to better shade the ground. Both Festuca ovina glauca (Blue Fescue) and Helictotrichon sempervirens (Blue Oat Grass) have steely blue foliage that keeps it color twelve months of the year and both have wheat-colored inflorescences in early to mid-summer that are attractive but showy. My favorite fescue cultivar is ‘Cool As Ice’ that is larger than the species.  All fescues grow twelve inches high while the Blue Oat Grass grows twice that size. Festuca will grow in full sun or light shade and slightly moist to dry soil but Helictotrichon requires full sun and dry soil.

Leymus ‘Blue Dune’-hoffmannursery.com

Another blue-evergreen is Elymus arenarius (Blue Lyme Grass) but care must be taken with its use. While the two grasses mentioned above are clumpers, this one is a rampant runner.  Placed on the right site, this can be a definite advantage.  Again, full sun and average to dry soil.

Liriope muscari ‘Variegata’ used as edging in shady front yard.

For shady sites, Liriope (Lily-Turf) makes an excellent substitute for grass.  Liriope muscari has many cultivars. ‘Big Blue’ has especially large flower spikes held well above the foliage while ‘Monroe’s White’ is the only white-flowered one.  There are also some with variegated foliage, always a plus in the shade. While L.muscari is a clumper, its cousin L.spicata is a runner and copes easily with shallow tree roots. Both grow only twelve inches high. If the foliage becomes tattered during the winter, a quick pass with the weed whip or a mower will take care of that. 

Carex oshimensis ‘Everillo’ in shady front yard.
Carex ‘Feather Falls’ in shady patio garden.

The Carex family also has members that can be used as evergreen groundcovers, some for sun and some for shade.  Carex oshimensis ‘Everillo’(Everillo Japanese Sedge) will grow in either sun or partial shade at twelve inches as a dense mound of foliage. Its foliage is yellow and really brightens up shady spots. Carex ‘Ice Dance’ has a wide white edge. Mine is growing under the worst of circumstances – very little light and only as much moisture as Mother Nature contributes. In the past few years, I have started using Carex ‘Feather Falls’ that is also variegated but has a finer texture and is wider. I grow it in both part shade and full sun. An excellent Carex for sunny wet places is C.muskingumensis (Palm Sedge) which will grow 18-30″ and slowly creeps along the ground.  This one looks more like a miniature palm than grass as do the other Carex.

If you have other suggestions, please let me know.