When To Plant Ornamental Grass In Zone 5? A Comprehensive Guide

Are you looking to add some texture and movement to your garden? Ornamental grasses may be just what you need!

These low-maintenance perennials come in a variety of colors and sizes, making them a versatile addition to any landscape. But when is the best time to plant them in a zone 5 environment?

In this article, we’ll explore the ideal planting windows, as well as some tips for growing and maintaining ornamental grasses. So grab your gardening gloves and let’s get started!

When To Plant Ornamental Grass Zone 5

In zone 5, the best time to plant ornamental grasses is in the spring or early fall. These seasons offer ideal planting conditions, with cooler temperatures and more consistent rainfall.

Avoid planting within four weeks of the first fall frost, as this can cause stress to the newly planted grasses. It’s also important to choose a day when the soil is dry and workable, as planting in wet soil can lead to root rot and other issues.

Understanding Zone 5 Climate

Zone 5 is a region that experiences cold winters and has a medium-length growing season. It covers a large area of the United States, primarily in the northern states, and is characterized by subzero temperatures and snow during the winter months. The last frost date in this zone is typically May 15th, while the first frost date is October 15th. Gardeners in this region need to keep up with temperature changes, especially frost warnings, and can use frost date apps to receive information about their zip code’s frost warnings.

Zone 5 is one of the 13 USDA hardiness zones and is identified on the USDA Plant Hardiness Map. This map outlines the minimum average winter temperatures of each region, with each zone being ten degrees warmer or cooler than the zone next to it. The zone ratings reflect the coldest average temperature of that zone, and a plant needs to be able to survive that temperature to be considered “hardy” for that region. Zone 5 is not one of the coldest zones, but it starts in the northwestern part of the United States and sweeps down through central United States before swooping back up to the northeast coast, covering 35 states in all.

The growing season in Zone 5 is short, lasting only from late spring to early fall, which can make gardening challenging. However, with mindful plant selection, physical covers, and due diligence about frost, gardeners can raise happy perennials in this zone. The majority of vegetables can be grown in Zone 5, and many can reach maturation before the first frost. The climate in this zone is based on accumulated temperature calculations called degree days, which combine the amount of time and temperature difference below some base temperature.

Choosing The Right Ornamental Grass For Your Garden

When it comes to choosing the right ornamental grass for your garden, there are several factors to consider. First, make sure that the grass is suitable for your zone. Not all ornamental grasses are hardy in every zone, so checking that a grass will grow in your area will help you narrow down the field.

Next, consider the purpose you want the grass to serve in your designated area. Do you want it to add texture, form, movement, or sound? Do you want it to provide outstanding winter interest? Do you want it to grow in a tidy clump or tend to spread?

You will also want to be aware of the grass’s growing conditions. Most ornamental grasses prefer well-drained soil and full sun (6 to 8 hours), but some thrive in low light or heavy clay. Some demand fertile soil, while others grow well in poor, rocky soil.

Once you have narrowed down your options based on these factors, it’s time to consider maintenance. Most ornamental grasses are low-maintenance and can grow for many years without division. However, some may require pruning or removal of seedheads to prevent invasive growth.

Spring Planting: Pros And Cons

Spring planting of ornamental grasses in zone 5 has its pros and cons. On the positive side, planting in the spring allows the grasses to establish their roots before the hot summer weather arrives. This gives them a better chance of survival during the dry and hot months. Additionally, spring planting allows for earlier enjoyment of the grasses’ foliage and blooms.

However, there are also some potential drawbacks to spring planting. One issue is that the soil may still be too cold for optimal growth, which can result in slower establishment and growth. Additionally, spring planting may require more watering than fall planting due to the warmer temperatures and potential for drought.

Another factor to consider is that some ornamental grasses are cool-season varieties, meaning they will have their most vibrant color while actively growing in the spring. Planting these grasses in the fall may result in less vibrant color during the following spring.

Ultimately, the decision of when to plant ornamental grasses in zone 5 will depend on individual factors such as the type of grass, local climate conditions, and personal preferences. However, by considering the pros and cons of spring planting, gardeners can make an informed decision that will help ensure successful growth and beautiful landscaping.

Fall Planting: Pros And Cons

Fall planting of ornamental grasses can have both advantages and disadvantages. One of the main advantages is that fall-planted grasses have a full growing season to develop strong root systems before the next summer. This can help them better withstand the stresses of hot and dry conditions. Additionally, fall planting allows for better root development in cooler temperatures, which can lead to healthier and more vigorous growth in the following spring.

However, there are also some potential drawbacks to fall planting. For one, planting too late in the season can expose newly planted grasses to harsh winter conditions before they have had a chance to properly establish themselves. This can result in winter damage or even death. Additionally, fall-planted grasses may require extra protection during their first winter, such as a light cover of straw or hay, to help insulate their roots from freezing temperatures.

How To Plant Ornamental Grasses

Planting ornamental grasses is a simple process that can be done in just a few easy steps:

1. Choose the right location: Ornamental grasses thrive in full sun or partial shade, depending on the variety. Make sure to choose a location that receives the appropriate amount of sunlight for your chosen grass.

2. Prepare the soil: Ornamental grasses are not picky about soil conditions, but adding compost to the soil can help with overall vigor. Dig a hole that is about 10 inches deep and at least twice as wide as the plant pot. Loosen the soil to make root growth easier.

3. Remove the plant from its pot: Gently remove the plant from its container, being careful not to pull on the leaves to remove the roots. If the plant is hard to remove, you can cut away the pot.

4. Loosen thick root systems: If the root system is thick, gently loosen or disturb it before planting.

5. Place the plant in the hole: Place the plant into the hole, making sure to gather any tall grass blades above the plant. Gently backfill the soil, pressing firmly.

6. Water and fertilize: Water plants thoroughly at the time of planting and throughout the season as needed. Feed plants with all-purpose plant food 30 days after planting.

7. Cut back in late winter: Cut back plants in late winter to make way for new growth.

8. Divide when necessary: Divide ornamental grasses when plants become overcrowded or the center dies out.

By following these simple steps, you can successfully plant and grow ornamental grasses in your garden or landscape. With their vibrant colors and unique textures, they are sure to add an eye-catching element to any outdoor space.

Caring For Ornamental Grasses Year-Round

Caring for ornamental grasses year-round is essential to ensure their health and longevity. Here are some tips to help you care for your ornamental grasses throughout the year:


– Fertilize established grasses in the spring with a granular slow-release fertilizer. Scratch the fertilizer into the soil around the plants.

– Cut back cool-season grasses before new growth appears at the start of the growing season.

– Divide large clumps of grasses in early spring before new growth begins.


– Water newly planted grasses regularly during their first year of growth to help them establish a strong root system.

– Keep an eye out for pests such as aphids or mites, and dislodge them with a strong spray of water if necessary.

– Avoid planting new grasses during the summer months, as it can be difficult to keep them watered enough.


– Leave warm-season grasses standing through winter to enjoy their winter interest and to provide food for birds.

– Cut back warm-season grasses to about 4-6 inches above the ground in spring.

– Divide evergreen grasses such as mondo grass or dwarf pampas grass in fall or spring.


– Most ornamental grasses do not require pruning in winter. Leave them alone to sway in the winter breeze and provide winter interest.

– Limit the invasive potential of some grasses by removing seedheads before seeds mature. Check with your local native plant society or state Department of Natural Resources to determine if a grass is invasive in your region.

By following these tips, you can help ensure that your ornamental grasses thrive year-round and provide texture, movement, and color to your garden.

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