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What are the Different Types of Grasses?

Grasses are incredibly diverse, ranging from the lawn-perfect Kentucky bluegrass to the towering bamboo. Each type serves unique ecological roles, with varieties like ryegrass for hardy turfs and fescues for drought resistance. From ornamental to functional, grasses shape our landscapes. Wondering how these grasses can enhance your outdoor space? Let's uncover their potential together.
H. Bliss
H. Bliss

Grasses are divided into many groups and subgroups, which can generally be categorized into one of two major groups: turfgrass or ornamental grass. Turfgrass is the ground cover grass most people are used to seeing on football fields and in parks. Ornamental grass, also called garden grass, is a decorative type of grass used in many creative landscapes and gardens. This type of grass features thick, reed-like blades that can grow to considerable height.

When they imagine grass, most people think of types of grasses that fit into the turfgrass category. Turfgrasses, the cushy, carpet-like types of grasses used for lawn grass, are further divided into warm-season and cool-season grasses. Common turfgrasses vary by region, but include Bermudagrass, St. Augustine grass and bent grass. Individual types of grass have different growing needs. Some turfgrasses are drought-tolerant grasses, while other types of grasses may be salt-tolerant or resistant to pests and weeds.

Turfgrass is the most common type of grass, and is usually seen on lawns and in public spaces.
Turfgrass is the most common type of grass, and is usually seen on lawns and in public spaces.

It is important to choose a grass suited to the climate and environment where it will grow. Salt-tolerant grasses are necessary for areas with slightly salty soil or a salty sea spray. Extremely salty conditions may prevent growth of any turfgrass. Some grasses require a full regimen of sun, while other grasses prefer the shade, which an important consideration for lawn areas shaded by trees or large buildings.

Ornamental grass is less commonly recognized as a type of grass because it does not look like the lawn grass most people see. Rather than spreading out along the ground, tall ornamental types of grasses come in large clumps that can grow to be twice as tall as an average person. They are green when the weather is temperate and wet, and in the winter they become glistening mounds of fallen snow. Different types of ornamental grass grow in different sizes, shapes, and shades of green for different effects. Popular types of ornamental grasses include fountaingrass, Japanese silver grass and pampas grass.

Grass can propagate, or reproduce new plants, by seed or it can use extensions called stolons to project and root a new plant in nearby ground. This can help grass grow back when it becomes damaged, but it can also create a problem if the grass gets out of hand. Choosing types of grasses that are not prone to spreading on their own can help reduce the chances that a grass gardener will lose control of his lawn.

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Discussion Comments


Turfing is ideal for those with a less than healthy looking lawn, who want grassed areas that are low maintenance and appropriate for both the local climate and the type of wear they receive. There are many commercial and residential landscape service providers who can help you in developing your property just in the way you want.


@Pippinwhite -- I had to laugh at your post. I had my battles with monkey grass when we bought our current home. An older lady had it and planted monkey grass everywhere. Took me forever to get the stuff pulled up and get some nice edging plants in.

I have a spot with deep shade in my backyard, and it's dirt. Looks like a dog run. I've experimented with grasses, but can't seem to get any to "take." I've augmented the soil, mulched -- everything, but still have that bare patch. What grass grows well in deep shade? I know some varieties do, and I'd like to try some. Maybe I'll ask at the Co-op on my next trip.


Ornamental grass. Hah. Ornamental grass is rarely as ornamental as the name implies. My landlady just loves monkey grass and planted it along the sidewalk on both sides. I hate that stuff. I don't think it's attractive, and it looks awful in the winter.

We have a very shady yard, so the only time the monkey grass looks really nice is in the early spring, when the trees are still bare and it gets a lot of sunshine. By midsummer, it's anemic looking.

I want some hosta along the sidewalk. It's a shade loving plant, and looks OK in the winter, since our winters are fairly mild. But I despise the monkey grass.

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    • Turfgrass is the most common type of grass, and is usually seen on lawns and in public spaces.
      By: Elenathewise
      Turfgrass is the most common type of grass, and is usually seen on lawns and in public spaces.