"Where drinking water is scarce, it doesn't make sense to use so much of it on our lawns and flowers," says landscape designer Nicole Lopez, who works in drought-prone Santa Monica. "You need to match plants to the climate that you live in. It just doesn't work the other way around."
The ornamental grasses in this gallery are excellent choices for low-water gardening. Plant information is provided for each, including climate zone information, which links to our Hardiness Zone Map.
Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus')
Clumping, graceful green leaf blades; coppery-red plumes in fall; grows 4 to 6 feet tall; prefers full sun, average soil; hardy to -10 degrees F; zones 4 to 10.
Zebra Grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus')
Pale yellow bands across strappy, arching leaves; silky spikes in late summer/early fall; grows 4 to 6 feet tall; prefers full sun or dappled shade, well-drained soil; hardy to -10 degrees F; zones 4 to 9
Blue Oatgrass (Helictotrichon sempervirens)
Striking stiff, gray-blue leaves with graceful 4-foot flower spikes in midsummer; grows to 4 feet tall; prefers full sun, well-drained soil; hardy to -20 degrees F; zones 5 to 9.
'Elijah Blue' Grass (Festuca glauca)
Attractive blue leaves and wheatlike stalks; grows 8 to 12 inches tall; prefers full sun to part shade in hot, humid regions; good in small borders and rock gardens; hardy to -20 degrees F; zones 4 to 9.
Leatherleaf Sedge (Carex buchananii)
Stiff thin stalks grow upright up to 2 feet tall; prefers partial shade in dry climates; good for containers and borders; hardy to +10 degrees F; zones 7 to 9.
Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana)
Clumps of white and pink flowers bloom in late summer atop the green grass blades. Grows quickly and reaches up to 8 ft. tall; prefers partial shade; well-drained soil; hardy to +10 degrees F; zones 7 to 10.
Oriental Fountain Grass (Pennisetum orientale)
Rounded clumps of green grass with white wheatlike flowers; grows 2 to 3 feet; prefers moist soil; hardy to +10 degrees F; zones 7 to 9.
Blue Panic Grass (Panicum virgatum)
Slivery blue blades with delicate pink flowers that bloom in late summer; thrives in full sun with well-drained soil; grows to 7 feet; attracts birds; hardy to -10 degrees F; zones 5 to 9.