Monty Don's favorite ornamental grasses for fall color – you'll want to try them too

Monty Don's ornamental grass borders are full of fall color and texture. Here's how to make grasses the star of your own autumn show

Monty Don's ornamental grass garden ideas
(Image credit: Future)

The grasses in Monty Don's garden add texture and color in swathes of light and airy romantic planting. They will add a cool style to your garden that’s right on trend. Easy and adaptable, they create texture and interest all year round with an understated elegance. 

There is a huge selection of grasses available in a range of eye-catching colors and heights, everything from rich gold and luminous silver to inky black and even vibrant striped varieties. 

If you want to learn how to grow ornamental grasses, the trick to add that special wow factor is to plant different types of grass in big loose blocks to maximize the impact rather than mixing them in with other plants as a filler. Do this and the rippling grass becomes the star of the show rather than the supporting act. Used this way, it adds a sleek touch that is simple yet looks breathtaking every time. 

So what type of ornamental grass are Monty Don's favorites for fall color? Read on to find out which varieties to choose, whatever the size of your garden. 

Get planting Monty Don's top ornamental grasses for fall

If you're keen on landscaping with grasses, these varieties are a firm favorite for Monty Don is his own garden, so why not include them in the plans for your plot and be guaranteed plenty of fall interest? 

1. Statuesque Stipa

The grass borders Monty Don

A photo posted by @themontydon on Sep 9, 2020 at 1:15am PDT

As they sway in the breeze and catch the autumn sunlight gold and russet coloured Stipa add a grand touch as they are tall yet their airy structure lets the light through. 

Some of Monty's favourites are pheasant grass (Stipa arundinacea) which has wonderful fluffy foliage that takes on a gorgeous red tint as summer heads into autumn, and Stipa gigantea with its golden flowerheads that look like delicate wavy oats on tall stems. Monty is also a fan of Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima), which has arching leaves with fluffy plumes of flowers.

2. Coppery Carex

Carex comans 'Bronze'

Carex comans 'Bronze'

(Image credit: Alamy)

Monty Don loves golden and copper colored grasses, and Bronze Carex comans is one of his favourites. It needs no special attention, apart from being planted in well-drained soil, and works as a feature in the garden virtually all year round. 

Carex flagellifera will grow into a clump of spiky reddish-brown leaves, with light brown flower spikes at this time of year. It's another grass that adds interest to the garden all year round. The pendulous coppery-bronze foliage of Carex buchananii is perfect for adding structure to a garden border.

3. Multi-tasking Miscanthus 

The Grass borders Monty Don

A photo posted by @themontydon on Sep 10, 2020 at 12:33am PDT

Miscanthus last for months on end and there are lots of different varieties to choose from. Monty uses them to get height and volume. The tall imposing ones add elegant form to the garden, while the compact varieties are good at the front of borders. 

Dramatic Miscanthus sinensis 'Silberfeder' has large silvery-pink flower plumes from tall deep green foliage that can grow to as high as 2 metres. Vibrant Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus' is one of the stripy varieties with horizontal cream stripes marking its green leaves.

4. Red 'Rubra'

Imperata cylindrica 'Rubra' also known as Japanese blood grass

The ornamental grass Imperata cylindrica 'Rubra'

(Image credit: Alamy)

One of the best grasses for a mixed border is Imperata cylindrica 'Rubra', according to Monty Don. Also known as Japanese blood grass, this spectacular variety grows in clumps that develop into a fantastic display in summer and fall. 

The jewel-like color of the brilliant red spikes adds a bold touch to borders and containers. This is a grass that prefers not to be in full sun so it's a great choice if your garden is on the shady side.

5. Pretty Pennisetum

Chinese fountain grass Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hameln'

Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hameln' (also known as Chinese fountain grass)

(Image credit: Alamy)

Graceful Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hameln' (also known as Chinese fountain grass) has pretty purple-tinged flower tufts like brushes in summer and autumn, and a mound of arching leaves that grow into a dense clump. 

It's a good choice for small gardens as it's more compact than the other perennial grasses favoured by Monty Don in his stunning Jewel Garden. This means it's a great choice for patio pots. Another plus point is that the foliage stays looking good throughout winter when the rest of the garden is sleeping.

Sarah Wilson
Content Editor

Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, Easy Gardens and Modern Gardens magazines. Having studied introductory garden and landscape design, she is currently putting the skills learned to good use in her own space where the dream is establishing a cutting garden.