Adding drama and powerful structure to the landscape, Miscanthus sinensis (Japanese Silver Grass) are fabulous ornamental grasses that should have a spot in any garden. Very gifted, these grasses are easy to grow, wonderful in winter, add elegance and movement to the landscape, are generally pest and disease free and require little maintenance. Traditionally used in Japan in decorative art and gardens, Miscanthus made a royal entrance into the occidental gardens about a century ago, thanks to their spectacular feathery plumes towering above their graceful arching foliage and their year-long interest in the garden.
- Native to China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, Miscanthus sinensis are sun-loving deciduous grasses that have become so popular that they are now available in a wide range of lovely cultivars varying in height, leaf width, leaf color or flower plume color.
- While all grasses produce flowers, Miscanthus are amongst those that draw attention and get the "wow" effect. Their erect, airy, flower plumes are typically produced in late summer (August or September) or early fall (October) and range from pale silver through to buff and to deep purplish-red depending on the variety. Shining in the summer sun, they all fade to silver within 3-4 weeks and turn soft and fluffy. They generally retain their good-looks well into the winter, providing a charming and architectural display.
- Most Japanese Silver grasses are clump-forming with a rounder outline, usually taller than wide, in which the leaves grow up then cascade out and down like a fountain. They offer an exhaustive array of height, starting from dwarf grasses no taller than 32 in. (80 cm) to majestic giants reaching 8 ft. (240 cm).
- Their arching foliage remains handsome over a long season extending from spring to winter. Many varieties of Japanese Silver Grasses provide attractive fall color with their leaves warming up to shades of red, orange or bronze as the first frosts approach.
- Some varieties enjoy a beautifully variegated foliage, illuminating the garden of its fine texture. The highly popular variegated varieties are 'Cosmopolitan', 'Morning Light', 'Zebrinus', 'Strictus'. The last 2 varieties display interesting horizontal golden marks on their arching leaves.
- When it comes to selecting the right Japanese Silver Grass, the task may become daunting as there are over 150 varieties of Miscanthus sinensis to choose from. Here is a comparative list of popular Japanese Silver Grasses which will help you select the right plant for the right space.
- Miscanthus sinensis prefer full sun in moderately fertile, moist, well-drained soils. They can survive partial shade, but they tend to get thin and flop over. Cultivar 'Variegatus' is more shade-tolerant than most.
- Among the easiest ornamental grasses to grow, there is a Miscanthus variety for almost every garden use. While most Miscanthus make substantial specimens, several are much more compact and suitable for small gardens or pots, reaching only 3-4 ft. in height (90-120 cm).
- Good dwarf varieties include 'Yakushima Dwarf' (the smallest of all), 'Kleine Silberspinne', 'Little Kitten' or 'Kleine Fontane'. They look great at the back of sunny borders and combine beautifully with Aster, Rudbeckia, Japanese Anemone or Culver's Root. and other fall perennials.
- The larger varieties of Miscanthus sinensis make a striking focal point or specimen plant thanks to their sculptural qualities. They also create outstanding backdrops for perennials and shrubs. Among the most spectacular, 'Cosmopolitan', with its beautifully variegated foliage, illuminating the garden of its fine texture and brightening the other plants nearby.
- Other tall and impressive Miscanthus varieties, highly popular among gardeners, are 'Kaskade', 'Grosse Fontane' or 'Silberfeder'. They have all won the prestigious Award of Garden Merit of the Royal Horticultural Society for their outstanding excellence for garden decoration.
- Depending on their height, Miscanthus can be effectively used as informal hedges or privacy screens. Standing out beautifully in the garden, their fine-textured foliage sways gracefully in the slightest breeze, delicately softening the landscape and bringing the hedge 'alive'.
- While many Miscanthus varieties are recommended for such purpose, 'Gracillimus' seems to be the favorite amongst gardeners. This old, established cultivar forms gracefully rounded mounds and enjoys an incredible ability to capture light. Other lovely candidates, to name a few, are 'Grosse Fontane' or Malepartus'.
- Extremely versatile, Miscanthus can be planted along borders, in groups or mass plantings, in raised planters, city gardens, cottage gardens, prairie plantings, where their majestic stature and flower-power will combine beautifully with other large perennials.
- Miscanthus look amazing when planted with Dahlias and create incredibly elegant plantings with deep-colored Dahlias with good foliage. Gardeners favorite picks are Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff, Dahlia 'Fascination, Dahllia 'David Howard' or Dahia 'Nuit d'Ete'. Vibrant Crocosmia (Montbretia) and Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) are also companion choices. Their display will last for months and require little maintenance.
- Do not hesitate to combine Miscanthus with other ornamental grasses and create "wow" sceneries, mixing their colors, shapes and textures.
- Looking for inspiration? Find plenty of attractive plant combination ideas with Miscanthus sinensis.
- Miscanthus sinensis are tolerant of salt and humidity prevalent in coastal areas and make lovely screens or buffers. Use them to create a 'protected microclimate' for less tolerant plants.
- While most Miscanthus Sinensis will tolerate drought periods once established, moist soils are required for best performance. Plant them near ponds and pools. 'Strictus' (Porcupine Grass) is more tolerant of wet soils than other cultivars.
- Miscanthus sinensis are very hardy (USDA Zones 5 - 9). A few varieties, Sarabande, Purpurascens and ''Silberfeder', are hardy to zone 4. Some cultivars are hardy only to zone 6.
- Miscanthus sinensis may be planted in the fall, although spring is the best time. Cut their foliage to the ground in late winter before new shoots appear.
- Miscanthus sinensis may self-sow (particularly in the case of early flowering varieties) and is considered invasive in several regions. Clip off the developing seed heads to prevent seeds from forming.