The ornamental grass Japanese silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis) has great features: It’s disease-resistant, bears beautiful plumes of feathery seed heads in late summer through winter, and is fairly immune to deer damage. And, because it’s clump-forming rather than spreading by underground rhizomes, it doesn’t wander through your garden with abandon. However, when you plant it, think carefully about its location. It’s a tall grass—even the medium-sized cultivars can reach 8 feet tall under optimum conditions—and roots are dense, solid, and difficult to dig and divide after a couple of years. In warmer climates it self-seeds fairly easily, so watch for seedlings in the fall.
Common name: Japanese silver grass, Eulalia grass, Chinese silver grass
Botanical name: Miscanthus sinensis
Plant type: Clump-forming, perennial grass
Height: 4 to 12 feet, depending on cultivar
Zones: 5 to 9
- Sun: Full sun to bright shade
- Soil: Tolerates poor soil, but grows more vigorously in well-drained soil
- Moisture: Moderate
- Mulch: Place a thin layer of mulch around plants to discourage self-seeding.
- Fertilizer: None required
- Pruning: Cut back withered stems in early spring before new shoots appear.
- ‘Cabaret’ (pictured) has broad green leaves with white stripes. Copper-colored plumes in early fall. Grows 5 to 7 feet tall. Zones 5 to 9.
- ‘Gracillimus’ has narrow green leaves with white midrib, white flowers that turn dark gold in fall. Grows 4 to 6 feet tall. Zones 5 to 9.
- ‘Nippon’ has narrow green leaves and flowers midsummer. Compact form that grows 4 to 5 feet tall. Zones 5 to 9.
- ‘Strictus’ has green blades with yellow stripe and flowers in mid-September. Grows 6 to 8 feet tall. Zones 5 to 9.
- ‘Variegatus’ has green and white foliage and flowers in September. Grows 5 to 6 feet tall. Zones 5 to 9.
- ‘Yaku Jima’, one of the smaller cultivars, has narrow green leaves, copper-colored plumes in fall. Grows 3 ½ to 4 feet tall. Zones 5 to 9.
- Combine Japanese silver grass with taller perennials such as Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), New England aster (Aster novae-angliae), Verbena bonariensis, and yarrow (Achillea spp.).
- Plant it against a fence or in a long row to form a quick-growing hedge.
- Japanese silver grass grows well in any soil except boggy, wet soil.
- Some sources list Japanese silver grass hardy to Zone 4.
- Divide clumps every two to three years.
- Generally, no problems with pests. The fungal disease Miscanthus blight may attack blades and sheaths, and rust might occur under damp conditions.
- Divide in spring as new growth appears.
All in the family
The Poaceae family includes ornamental grasses, bamboo, turfgrass, wheat, rice, and corn.
Text by Mary Pestel, photo courtesy of Monrovia Nurseries, www.monrovia.com.