Source: California Invasive Plant Council

URL of this page:

Don't Plant a Pest

Ornamental grasses of the Southern California region

Invasive plants are listed in red boxes. Alternatives are listed below in green.
Invasive plants that are also a fire hazard are identified by this symbol: 

Invasive! Do Not Plant! Invasive!

More/larger photos
giant cane or giant reed
Arundo donax
This grass grows along streamsides, where it can reach over 20 feet tall. It grows in dense thickets that clog waterways and is a fire hazard. When clumps of arundo are washed downstream during storms, they become trapped against bridges and create a maintenance problem where they land. Arundo creates less shade than the native trees it replaces, increasing water temperatures to a level that is dangerous for native fish.
Invasive!   Do Not Plant!   Invasive!

More/larger photos
jubatagrass or pampasgrass
Cortaderia jubata or Cortaderia selloana
Wind can carry the tiny seeds of these plants up to 20 miles. The massive size of each pampas grass plant with its accumulated litter reduces wildlife habitat, limits recreational opportunities in conservation areas, and creates a fire hazard.
Invasive!   Do Not Plant!   Invasive!

More/larger photos
green fountain grass
Pennisetum setaceum
Spreads aggressively by seed into natural areas by wind, water, or vehicles. Fast grower; impedes the growth of locally native plant species and eventually takes over natural areas. Also raises fuel loads and fire frequency in natural areas. Is spreading rapidly in California. Existing research indicates that red varieties of fountain grass (P. setaceum 'Rubrum' are not invasive.
Key to plant care
Try these plants instead

More/larger photos
San Diego sedge
Carex spissa
full sunpart sunlow water
This large sedge has a form similar to that of an ornamental grass. Produces gray leaves to five feet tall and yellow, grass-like flowers in the spring. Deer resistant.

More/larger photos
California fescue
Festuca californica
full sunpart sunmedium waterlow water
Flowering stalks rise to 5 feet above large clumped grass (2-3 feet tall) in late spring, early summer. Striking appearance, good adaptability, with clumps holding their shape well throughout the year.

More/larger photos
blue oat grass
Helictotrichon sempervirens
full sunhigh water
Evergreen, bright blue-gray, with narrow leaves in fountain-like clump. Grows 2 to 3 feet high and wide. Stems bear straw-colored flower clusters.

More/larger photos
Lavandula species
full sunlow water
With their purple flowers, lavenders can easily replace fountain grass. There are many species and varieties of lavender. Sweet lavender is able to tolerate a wide range of conditions including heat, humidity and cold. Other popular varieties of lavender are goodwin creek gray, French, and English lavender. They are fragrant and grow to about 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall and bloom with bright lavender flowers which can be dried for lavender fragrance.

More/larger photos
giant wild rye
Leymus condensatus
full sunpart sunlow water
Large clumping grass 4 to 5 feet across and reaches 6 to 8 feet tall in bloom. Distinct silver-gray foliage. Prune annually to encourage new growth.

More/larger photos
deer grass
Muhlenbergia rigens
full sunpart sunlow waterdrought
This large, perennial, California native has dense clusters of narrow, bright green leaf blades and tall, slender flower stalks. Bold enough to be used as a focal point of the garden, it also partners well with other perennials, flowers, and shrubs. Once established, deer grass is extremely drought tolerant and fits in well with a water-conscious California garden. Other Muhlenbergia species can also be good choices.

Bigelow's bear grass
Nolina bigelovii
full sunlow waterdrought
This agave can be mistaken for a large bunchgrass. Grows up to six feet tall, producing large, striking, white flowers in summer.
Funding for this project has been provided in full or in part through an Agreement with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) pursuant to the Costa-Machado Water Act of 2000 (Proposition 13) and any amendments thereto for the implementation of California's Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the SWRCB, nor does mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.