The Best Ornamental Grasses for Privacy — Pick From These 5 to Screen Your Yard from Neighbors

If you're looking for an ornamental grass to bring an element of seclusion and privacy to your backyard, look no further than these five firm favorites

A backyard with ornamental grasses
(Image credit: Prue Ruscoe. Design: MCK Architecture & Interiors)

Ornamental grasses are a wonderful addition to any backyard. If you are looking for soft, wispy plants to line a pathway, a filler for a container garden, or something that creates height for a privacy screen, ornamental grasses are the perfect solution. This type of grass adds movement, texture, and softness to any landscape, and some are evergreen, meaning you can rely on them to lift your backyard and deter prying eyes all year round.

A huge advantage is that they also are super easy to care for, and give that wild, foraged look that local wildlife will love and soon learn to call home. So what are the five best ornamental grasses out there for your backyard? We've asked the experts for their favorites.

1. Pampas grass

Pampas grass in a backyard

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Pampas grass is an ornamental grass that dazzles, growing to spectacular heights with elegant tufts, making it a great solution to your privacy woes. It is easy to care for too, looking brilliant in pots or planted in clusters in your backyard. It produces dramatic plume-like flowers that open in August and last all the way through to February. Come fall, the flowers make a popular choice for indoor dried displays, making appearances in seasonal wreaths and table displays.

At its peak, this grass will grow up to 12 feet tall, and it grows at quite a speedy pace. This is both a blessing and a curse, as it easily fills barren patches of your modern garden, but because of the nature of the seeds spreading in the wind, it can also become invasive. With care and attention, it can create a great privacy fence for your backyard.

2. Miscanthus

A close-up image of miscanthus

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A popular choice of ornamental grass, miscanthus, or silvergrass as it is more commonly known has a graceful, wispy look that fills the garden with a soft and airy texture. Even when it's not in bloom (typically between August and October), it really holds its shape. When it is in bloom, the top of the wispy grass is characterized by seed heads that have a silvery hue to them, hence its name.

‘Miscanthus are beautiful warm season clumping grasses that can reach up to 12 feet tall and four feet wide,’ says Christian Bendsen, horticulturist at Paul Sangha Creative. Miscanthus can turn various colors, from golden, light red, and pale lilacs during the fall when temperatures begin to drop.

'The fluffy seed heads create a visually blurring effect when planted in groupings and provide shelter and food for pollinators and birds over the winter,' adds Christian.

Like other types of ornamental grass, miscanthus, which can be bought from Burpee, makes a great border for sleepers and is perfectly situated running alongside your garden fencing.

3. Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass

Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass

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Growing in a neat, two-foot clump, this perennial plant is a great ornamental grass and is topped with wheat-colored seed heads. Karl Foerster gets its namesake from the great nurseryman who was responsible for introducing this type of grass. It is one of the first ornamental grasses to bloom in spring, and its slight red tint makes it the perfect addition for a colorful backyard.

'Calamagrotis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ (which you can find at Burpee) is a choice cool season clumping grass that can grow up to two to three feet tall, with its seed heads reaching up to six feet tall,' says Christian. Its visually pleasing and reliably upright form can be left to stand over the winter too, meaning it's a good choice for a better looking yard year round.

'The golden yellow reeds provide privacy screening, winter habitat for native pollinators and birds, and look particularly whimsical when swaying under a light breeze,' adds Christian.

4. Mulhy grass

Mulhy grass

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Mulhenbergia capillaris or muhly grass has a distinctive pink plume, working as a reliable privacy screen as well as adding color to your backyard. Pink Muhly Grass grows in a mound with erect, blue-green foliage until September when spectacular billowing pink seed heads bring wonderful color to the outdoor space. You can buy Pink Muhly grass ready to plant, like this from Fast Growing Trees, or grow your own from seeds, like these from Amazon. It's a relatively fast growing plant.

'Pink muhly grass adds a beautiful, airy plume of color to the summer-fall garden and can also provide some privacy,' points out Katherine Aul Cervoni, landscape designer and founder of Staghorn NYC and The Cultivation by Kat. 'It reaches up to 4 foot high, and 3 foor - 4 foot wide, so is one of the best plants for privacy.'

5. Switchgrass

Ornamental grass garden with mixed borders

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Switchgrass is an ornamental grass that is commonly used in landscaping, lending a tinge of fall color to your backyard. The growth of switchgrass means it grows vertically and upwards, with a cloud of seed heads in fall. It's easy to grow, meaning it's one for low-maintenance gardens. Switchgrass is a great choice if you're looking to encourage biodiversity, providing food and habitats for local wildlife.

'Whether you prefer a sprinkling of red foliage with Panicnum “Shenandoah” or a rich blue-green color with “Northwind”, paninicum is a lovely ornamental grass option for creating privacy,' says Kat. 'These grasses have a habit that is both upright and slightly fountain-like at maturity while maintaining a neat clump. These grasses typically reach a height of 4’-6’ high depending on the cultivar and conditions.'

Keep in mind that many ornamental grasses have to be cut back in early spring to allow for new growth to come through, so there will be a period in spring when they do not offer much if any privacy.

Ornamental grasses to bring privacy to your backyard

Oonagh Turner
Livingetc content editor and design expert

Oonagh is a content editor at and an expert at spotting the interior trends that are making waves in the design world. Writing a mix of everything and everything from home tours to news, long-form features to design idea pieces on the website, as well as frequently featured in the monthly print magazine, she's the go-to for design advice in the home. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.