Top 10 Ornamental Grasses Native To New Jersey That Are Not Invasive

If you want something challenging in your gardening journey, growing ornamental grasses native to New Jersey may be your best bet. Despite not being as popular as native perennials to plant in your garden, they feature unique characteristics you will not regret putting the effort on. In addition, these native grasses are a great alternative to shrubs and sedges for new landscaping and foundation plantings.

Nonetheless, some native grasses are quite tricky to plant since they tend to spread aggressively when they meet favorable growing conditions.

But here, we help you to collect the top 10 ornamental grasses native to New Jersey that are not invasive; thus, they will not bother you with complicated maintenance.

Let’s take a look!

BEST Ornamental Grasses Native To New Jersey

Nestled between bustling cities and serene shorelines, New Jersey hides a green secret. Beyond the iconic Jersey tomatoes, the Garden State embraces a lush tapestry of ornamental grasses. Dancing to the rhythm of coastal winds, these native beauties aren’t just eye candy; they’re a testament to nature’s artistry.

Dive into this verdant journey, and let’s explore the finest ornamental grasses the state has lovingly cultivated.

1. Big Bluestem (Andropogon Gerardii)

ornamental grasses native to new jersey
Big Bluestem (Andropogon Gerardii)

Showing its visual interest through summer and fall, this New Jersey native grass is well-known as a warm-season grass-like perennial that will pamper you with its distinctive dense clump.

The brownish seed heads have shapes resembling a turkey’s foot atop stalks that grow 4-6 feet tall. When fall comes, they will turn red, adding the season’s shade to the landscape.

Despite growing dense, it is still possible to plant Big Bluestem in your garden. This full sun lover’s grass tolerates partial shade and wide types of soils as long as they are moist soil. It is also a drought-tolerant and deer-resistant plant, making them among the low-maintenance native grasses to take care of.

2. Blue Grama (Bouteloua Gracilis)

ornamental grasses native to new jersey
Blue Grama (Bouteloua Gracilis)

Belong to the shortest native grass in New Jersey, Blue Gama or Bouteloua gracilis is a low-growing grass that is a perfect match to decorate your containers.

Each stem bears a long fluffy brush that lies horizontally, making them stand out among other native plants. The native ornamental grass is usually grown side by side with Buffalo grass or wildflowers.

As a warm-season native grass, it loves full sun and does not favor shade. It has a high tolerance to heat and drought, and in fact, it is the most drought-tolerant native turf grass.

In contrast, Blue Gama also copes well with harsh winter cold, putting a winter interest in your garden or patio. Additionally, pruning in this season is recommended to remove dead plants.

3. Broomsedge Bluestem (Andropogon Virginicus)

ornamental grasses native to new jersey
Broomsedge Bluestem (Andropogon Virginicus)

Similar to its fellow species, Andropogon gerardii, Andropogon virginicus or Broomsedge Bluestem is a native grass perennial that will display its beauty through fall and winter.

It produces a soft texture of white flower-like hairs that look mesmerizing under sun exposure. Not to mention the overall stems turn pale brown in fall, adding charm to its appeal.

Following other mentioned ornamental grasses, Broomsedge Bluestem is a sun-loving grass that is not picky about its soil conditions. It can grow in dry to medium moist soil, on sandy, sandy loam, or medium loam soil types. Just make sure you prepare good drainage. Furthermore, this drought-tolerant plant is excellent erosion control, making it a great piece for banks and slopes.

4. Indiangrass (Sorghastrum Nutans)

ornamental grasses native to new jersey
Indian Grass (Sorghastrum Nutans)

Bearing a clump of blue-green bladers that soar up from the ground, Indiangrass or Sorghastru nutans will make your prairie plantings interesting. It is an essential prairie species that also offers you showy golden brown featherlike flowers, adorning the grass even more!

You can especially enjoy its allure from mid-summer to early fall when the awns become red to bronze in color. 

Furthermore, it is no doubt that this tall grass is one of the favorites to grow since it is pretty much a low-maintenance grass. It withstands drought and handles sun, part shade, and shade very well. Besides, you can plant them in different soil types and conditions, such as dry to medium moist, sandy to loamy, and limestone-based soils.

5. Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium Scoparium)

ornamental grasses native to new jersey
Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium Scoparium)

Well-known for its exquisite rust shade of grass makes Little Bluestem or Schizachyrium scoparium worth noting as one of the best ornamental grasses to plant in the New Jersey landscape.

This deciduous native perennial will display its arching blue-green stems in summer, while the copper orange to red shades appears in fall and winter. Having a long-blooming period, the Little Bluestem will let you absorb its endless grace through the seasons.

Since it is easily mixed with other plants, it will be an awesome fit for rock gardens, cottage gardens, and prairie plantings. You just have to ensure it meets proper growing conditions, including full sun exposure, and dry to medium, well-drained soils. Additionally, it is a heat-tolerant and drought-tolerant plant that cannot tolerate wet soils; thus, it does not need frequent watering.

6. Purple Love Grass (Eragrostis Spectabilis)

Purple Love Grass (Eragrostis spectabilis)
Purple Love Grass (Eragrostis Spectabilis)

Purple Love Grass can be a fantastic alternative if you wish to have a touch of colorful shade in your garden but do not intend to grow flowering perennials. It has tiny red-purple flowers with clump-forming thin stalks, creating an enchanting haze of floating clouds at the ground level.

This lovely sight will last for several weeks before changing to a creamy color as the foliage turns purple.

Considering its natural habitat, it performs best in sandy, moist soil but is well-drained since it is intolerant to wet soils. Instead of shade, it prefers the sun to thrive; thus, make sure you choose a proper location to plant Purple Love Grass. To encourage new growth, cut back the grass to the ground in early spring.

7. River Oats (Chasmanthium Latifolium)

River Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)
River Oats (Chasmanthium Latifolium)

True to its name, this deciduous, clump-forming grass like perennial grows purple-green, oat-like flowers on the arching branches in late spring. Then, the colors will fade away and change from ivory to brown in mid-summer.

Because of its growth habit and attractive appearance, River Oats is a popular low-maintenance shade grass to plant in shade gardens, cottage gardens, or as garden borders. Knowing it loves shade, it thrives best in part shade or shade lighting levels. It cannot stand continuous full sun because the exposure will damage the leaves.

However, if you give an adequate amount of water, it may tolerate the sun better. Despite having a good tolerance for poor soils, it still prefers moist locations with proper fertility and drainage to grow.

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8. Saltmeadow Cordgrass (Spartina Patens)

Saltmeadow Cordgrass (Spartina patens)
Saltmeadow Cordgrass (Spartina Patens)

It is a native grass-like perennial you can rely on to provide everlasting year-round greenery. Though bearing tiny flowers, it seems like they are blending away with the stems, creating a waving grasses view of the landscape when the wind blows. Not only are humans attracted to the amazing appearance it offers, but birds also find it interesting.

Like its name, it has a great tolerance to salt spray because its natural habitat includes saline marshes and coastal sandy meadows. And for that reason, Saltmeadow Cordgrass grows best in wet, sandy soils.

In freshwater, the sun-loving grass can develop better and become much more prominent. Since it flourishes well near coastal areas, it is often grown for beachfront stabilization.

9. Switchgrass (Panicum Virgatum)

Switchgrass (Panicum Virgatum)
Switchgrass (Panicum Virgatum)

Another warm-season tallgrass family is eager to decorate your landscape with its distinctive qualities. This native perennial grass bears green leaves that grow on top and down the stems and reddish-purple seed heads through summer. Meanwhile, the fall takes over to display yellow shade to the clumps, offering their most exquisite accent that persists until winter.

With that being said, you may wonder how to care for Switchgrass. Similar to other ornamental grasses native to New Jersey, it requires little to no maintenance. It thrives in the sun and part shade on dry to moist soils. Additionally, the native grass suits various soil types, making it easier for you to choose planting locations.

10. Woolgrass (Scirpus Cyperinus)

Woolgrass (Scirpus Cyperinus)
Woolgrass (Scirpus Cyperinus)

Scirpus cyperinus or Woolgrass is a native rhizomatous perennial that produces green leaves that grow upwards or spread sideways with unique white to golden brown wooly seed heads on the tip of the stalks.

The nutlets are surrounded by fluffy bristles, creating a furry fluorescence to their appearance. In addition, this clump-forming grass is a vital food provider for wildlife, like waterfowl, muskrats, and geese.

Moreover, this Woolgrass loves full sun exposure in water areas to thrive, especially in wet meadows and swamps. And so, the soil condition must be damp and have acidic to circumneutral pH, ranging from 6.8 to 7.2.

Unfortunately, it is not suitable to grow in private gardens since the contender grows aggressively. Instead, it will be a perfect species for rain gardens or wetlands restorations.

Final Thought

As our exploration winds down, it’s evident that New Jersey’s ornamental grasses are nature’s poetry in motion. Each blade tells a tale of resilience, beauty, and the state’s rich biodiversity. Embracing these native wonders isn’t just a nod to local aesthetics but a step toward sustainable gardening.

Whether you’re a green thumb or simply an admirer, let New Jersey’s grassy marvels inspire your next garden venture. After all, sometimes the most captivating stories are whispered through rustling leaves.

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What native ornamental grasses are commonly found in New Jersey?

Besides ornamental grasses native to New Jersey, there are several other native ornamental types of grass that are generally grown in New Jersey, such as fountain grass, blue fescue grass, dwarf fountain grass, maiden grass, and zebra grass.

They are mostly native to Asia and Australia but can grow and adapt well to the New Jersey climate. 

Or, if you favor some kind of native grass-like perennials, Joe Pye Weed may be your ideal option since it grows tall like tallgrass species but with eye-catching flowers on top of them.

What native perennial grasses in New Jersey thrive in winter?

Blue Grama (Bouteloua gracilis), Broomsedge Bluestem (Andropogon virginicus), Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), and Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) can be your best choices if you would like to add winter interest in your landscapes.

Generally, their blooming period lasts from fall to early winter. Among those mentioned hardy winter native grasses, only the Blue Grama thrives best in harsh winter. 

What’s the big deal about native ornamental grasses in New Jersey?

Well, native grasses have this amazing ability to blend in with Jersey’s vibe! They’re nature’s very own décor pieces, shaped by local climates, and can jazz up a garden without breaking a sweat. Plus, they’re eco-friendly, supporting local wildlife like a charm.

Do these grasses ever get too comfortable and spread everywhere?

Nah, these natives are well-behaved guests. They’ve grown up in Jersey’s environment, so they know their boundaries. Unlike some invasive species, they won’t throw a wild party in your garden.

Planning a garden revamp. How tall do these native ornamentals grow?

Ah, aiming for a garden skyline? Grasses like Indian Grass might reach up to 6 feet, offering a sky-high view. However, others like Little Bluestem prefer to keep it mid-rise. Your garden, your pick!

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