Hundreds of varieties of ornamental grasses offer gardeners a wide variety of colours, heights and looks, and require little maintenance. These types of grasses grow well in poor conditions as compared to other types of garden plants. While most ornamental grasses grow best in full sun, there are several that perform well in shady conditions.
This cool-season perennial grass reaches a height of 6 to 18 inches, growing in blue or green clumps with golden seed heads. It tolerates moist to dry conditions, in addition to partial shade, making it ideal for a variety of locations in USDA Hardiness Zone 4 gardens.
Northern Sea Oats
This is one of the most shade-tolerant varieties of ornamental grasses, and it actually grows taller when planted in shady locations, according to the University of Missouri Extension. Planted in moist, shaded areas, this ornamental grass blooms and grows vigorously to a height of 2 feet. It develops green, drooping flowers that later turn copper. This perennial reseeds readily, an added bonus for gardeners.
Feather Reed Grass
This is a cool-season perennial grass, reaching 2 to 3 feet in height when mature. Its green flowers turn the colour of wheat in midsummer, providing showy foliage until it bleaches to a light tan hue and remains through much of winter. It not only grows in shade, but also tolerates heavy soil and moderately dry to moist conditions.
Showy Wood Rush
Reaching a height of 2 feet, showy wood rush is an evergreen perennial that produces white foliage and green flowers, growing in moist, shady conditions. This ornamental grass works well as a ground cover, according to Ohio State University Extension.
Silky Thread Grass
Silky thread grass is a cool-season perennial grass that produces well when used in mass plantings or containers, along with working in dried flower arrangements. It grows about 18 inches tall in vertical clumps. Native to areas with hot, dry climates, silky thread grass goes dormant in such weather, and tolerates light shade.
This perennial grass grows much shorter than many other ornamentals, reaching a final height of only about 12 inches. White flowers develop on this cool-season grass in June. It is tolerant of both shade and various soil conditions.
Japanese Blood Grass
A short, warm-season ornamental, Japanese blood grass offers red and green mixed foliage that changes to a dark red in the fall. Somewhat invasive, this perennial grass is best grown in containers or well-defined flowerbeds with borders to contain it, according to Colorado State University Extension. It prefers moist conditions and midday shade for protection from strong rays and high temperatures.
This warm-season perennial grass, identified by its pinkish-white leaves with green stripes, reaches 2 to 3 feet tall. It grows in shaded conditions, requiring additional moisture for best growth results.