Landscape-friendly Grasses, Sedges, and Shrubs


Grasses, Sedges, and Shrubs for Landscaping

Prairie dropseed | Sporobolus heterolepis

Prairie dropseed forms dense mounds of narrow, rich green, fountain-shaped foliage.

  • Mature height, 12 inches (flowering stems 2–3 feet); spread, 36 inches
  • Plant 2 feet apart in full sun for a good, medium-height groundcover
  • Has a distinctive odor when it blooms in September
  • Difficult to establish by direct seeding, so plant plugs instead

Little bluestem | Schizachyrium scoparium

This clump-forming, blue-green grass is perfect for creating a prairie patch in the landscape.

  • Mature height, 24–26 inches; spread, 12 inches
  • Nonspreading
  • Turns a rich russet color in the fall
  • Stands erect throughout the winter, providing texture in the garden and cover for wildlife.

Tussock sedge | Carex stricta

This sedge has dense mounds of narrow, rich green, fountain-shaped foliage similar to prairie dropseed.

  • Mature height, 12–18 inches; spread, 18–30 inches
  • Needs moist soil conditions
  • Great for water gardens, rain gardens, swales, and pond edges
  • Provides cover and nest sites for birds.

Rusty black haw | Viburnum rufidulum

With glossy green, leathery leaves, rusty black haw can be grown as a shrub or pruned to form a small tree.

  • Flowers: March–April
  • Mature height, 10–15 feet; spread, 5–10 feet
  • Clusters of blue-black fruit appear in September (perfect timing for migratory birds)
  • Leaves turn rich burgundy as days shorten

Spice bush | Lindera benzoin

A broad, rounded, multi-stemmed shrub, spice bush is a host plant for the spicebush swallowtail butterfly.

  • Flowers: Late March–April
  • Mature height, 9–15 feet; spread, 6–10 feet
  • Covered with fragrant yellow-green flowers in early spring
  • Aromatic leaves turn deep yellow-gold in fall
  • Red berries appear in late summer