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Grasses for Impact

Grasses are used in home gardens to balance the vertical heights of trees and shrubs in providing a horizontal swath of turf. The carpet of green turf tames strong flower colours and is recognised as cooling the air more effectively than bricks, paving or stone.

Grasses are used in commercial areas for open parklands, to stabilise soil to prevent erosion and as a form of bush re-vegetation when native grasses are used.

Grass is more than just turf – there are species and cultivars that are used for their ornamental attributes of leave patterns, autumn tones and plumes of flowers.

Grasses belong to the Poaceae family and include all true bamboos.


Australian native grasses worth using in gardens as ornamentals:

  • Feather Grass (Austrostipa elegantissima, A. ramosissima)
  • Scented top Grass (Capillipedium spicigerum)
  • Barbed Wire Grass (Cymbopogon refractus)
  • Native Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon ambiguus)
  • Queensland Blue Grass (Dichanthium sericeum)
  • Longhair Plume Grass (Dichelachne crinita)
  • Lavender Grass (Eragrostis elongata)
  • Weeping Meadow Grass (Micolaena stipoides)
  • Wallaby Grass (Notodanthonia longifolia syn. Danthonia longifolia)
  • Swamp Foxtail (Pennisetum alopecuroides)
  • Fine-leaf Tussock Grass (Poa clivicola, P. labillardieri, P. sieberiana)
  • Kangaroo Grass (Themeda australis)


There are hundreds of non-native ornamental grasses available throughout the world. Here is just a few examples:

  • Tiger Grass (Thysanolaena latifolia)
  • Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus)
  • Needle Grass (Achnatherum species)
  • Beardgrass (Andropogon species)
  • New Zealand Wind Grass (Anemanthele lessoniana)
  • Three-awn Grass (Aristida species)
  • Tall Oat Grass (Arrhenatherum elatius ssp. bulbosum)
  • Giant Reed (Arundo donax)
  • Miscanthus (Miscanthus species and cultivars)


There are many grass-like plants that are NOT in the family of Poaceae and as such these plants should never be called grasses. These Australian native plants are ideal for landscaping and will often provide a benefit of flowers to the ornamental garden:

  • Kangaroo Paws (Anigozanthos cultivars)
  • Twisted Cord Rush (Baloskion australis syn. Restio australis)
  • Didgery Sticks (Baloskion pallens)
  • Tassel Rush (Baloskion tetraphyllum syn. Restio tetraphyllum)
  • Twig Rush (Baumea juncea)
  • Native Leeks (Bulbine alata, B. bulbosa, B. glauca, B. vagans)
  • Sedges (Carex appressa, C. brunnea <syn. C. hattoriana>, C. gunniana)
  • Koala Fern (Caustis blakei, C. flexuosa)
  • Bristle Rush (Chorizandra enodis)
  • Cottonhead (Conostylis aculeata, C. candicans, seorsiflora)
  • Flax Lily (Dianella atraxis, D. caerulea, D. longifolia, D. prunina, D. revoluta, D. tasmanica)
  • Club Rush (Ficinea nodosa syn. Isolepis nodosa)
  • Sword Grass (Gahnia sieberiana)
  • Button Grass (Gymnoschoenus sphaerocephalus)
  • Bloodroot (Haemodorum coccineum)
  • Hooded Lily (Johnsonia lupulina)
  • Common Rush (Juncus usitatus)
  • Lepironia (Lepironia articulata)
  • Grass Flag (Libertia paniculata)
  • Matt Reed (Lomandra banksii, L. confertifolia, L. filiformis, L. glauca, L. hystrix, L. longifolia)
  • Native Iris (Patersonia occidentalis, P. sericea)
  • Trigger Plant (Stylidium graminifolium)
  • Frogmouth (Philydrum lanuginosum)
  • Three-sided Rush (Schoenoplectus pungens)
  • Vanilla Lily (Sowerbaea juncea)
  • Nodding Blue Lily (Stypandra glauca syn. S. grandiflora)
  • Tufted Blue Flax Lily (Thelionema caespitosum <syn. Stypandra caespitosa>, T. grande <syn. Stypandra grandis>, T. umbellatum <syn. Stypandra umbellata>)
  • Fringe Flower (Thysanotus multiflorus)
  • Slender Yellow Eye (Xyris gracilis)


Other larger plants with strappy foliage that work well with grasses:

  • Crinum Lily (Crinum flaccidum, C. pedunculatum)
  • Gymea Lily (Doryanthes excelsa)
  • Spear Lily (Doryanthes palmeri)
  • New Zealand Flax (Phormium cookianum, P. tenax)
  • Stream Lily (Helmholtzia glaberrima)
  • Curculigo (Molineria capitulata syn. Curculigo recurvata)
  • Grass Trees (Xanthorrhoea species)
  • Poor Knights Lily (Xeronema callistemon, X. moorei)

As with all plants, check their availability in your local garden centre (or country) and only grow species and cultivars that are not invasive to your local environment. Just because a plant may be ‘native’ to your country does not mean it will grow in your local climatic conditions. Ask a qualified horticulturist for advice or only buy plants from a specialist seller.


Written by Paul Plant, Editor of subTropical Gardening magazine – www.stgmagazine.com.au

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