Ornamental Maiden Grasses: How To Grow Maiden Grass

Ornamental Maiden Grasses: How To Grow Maiden Grass

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Miscanthus sinensis, or maiden grass, is a family of ornamental plants with a clumping habit and graceful arching stems. This group of grasses has added appeal in late summer with spectacular plumes and in fall with bronze to burgundy colored foliage.

Miscanthus maiden grass is easy to care for and hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9. There are numerous maiden grass varieties with different sizes and foliage colors. Bring one of these elegant grasses into your home landscape for powerful dimension, color and movement.

Miscanthus Maiden Grass

Maiden grass thrives in full sun and may get 6 feet (2 m.) wide with a 10 foot (3 m.) spread.

The grass requires well-drained soil, but is tolerant of excess moisture, dry conditions, acidic soils and even hard clay sites.

Ornamental maiden grass is excellent used in containers, but more commonly planted in groups or as a border or along the edges of beds. Miscanthus maiden grass has a very regal appeal and provides elegant décor to flank the front entry or along the driveway. Just remember how tall and wide the grass will get and give it enough room to mature.

How to Grow Maiden Grass

Propagation of ornamental maiden grasses is through division. You may dig up a mature plant in early spring before new growth has appeared. Cut the root base into two to four sections and plant each as a new plant.

You can do this every three years or more, but it is important to do it when the center of the plant is showing signs of dying out. This is an indicator that it is time to divide the grass. Rejuvenated plants result from division and they have a tighter clumping habit.

If you want to know how to grow maiden grass from seed, get ready for a wait. Sow seeds indoors in a flat with a lid. Keep the soil in the flat lightly moist and place the flat in a warm area at least 60 F. (16 C.). The baby sprouts will grow slowly and you will not have a Miscanthus maiden grass big enough to plant outside for at least a year. Your best bet is to find a buddy with a grass and cut out a piece for yourself.

Maiden Grass Care

Maiden grass care couldn’t be simpler. The plants have no known pest or disease problems, except rust. Rust is a fungal disease that is transmitted to leaves when water splashes onto them.

Water the plants from under the foliage and when the leaf blades will have time to dry off quickly.

Maiden Grass Varieties

‘Condensatus’ is a variety that can get 8 feet (2.5 m.) tall and has coarse foliage. ‘Gracillimus’ is a delicately leaved cultivar with a more upright growth habit. For colorful displays, ‘Purpurescens’ is red in summer and purplish red in fall, while ‘Silver Feather’ has shimmering whitish silver inflorescences.

There are variegated varieties with horizontal yellow or white stripes, or vertical stripes along the leaf margins. Compact types are usually only 3 to 4 feet (1 m.) tall and suitable for containers. Do a little research on the many maiden grass varieties and choose the right one for your garden location.

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During the growing season, maiden grass height reaches 4 to 9 feet tall, and the plant spreads 3 to 6 feet wide. Do not cut back the grass in the fall or winter. The foliage is attractive even during colder months, and it helps to protect the crown of the plant from freezing temperatures, notes Missouri Botanical Garden. In late winter or early spring, cut back the maiden grass to the ground before the new growth begins.

One easy way to cut back the maiden grass is to gather it together in a bundle, tying it with a few blades of the grass, advises Monrovia. Then, cut down the grass to a few inches above the ground using pruning shears or manual or electric hedge shears. If you have a wood eater with a brush-cutting blade, this will work as well, advises Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service. Remove any dead material from the center of the plant.

How to Grow Miscanthus

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Miscanthus sinensis, -- commonly referred to as maiden grass, morning grass, Japanese silvergrass or Chinese silvergrass -- is an ornamental grass that is native to Asia, but now grows in many parts of the United States. Its arching leaves grow to between 3 and 5 feet tall and are arranged in clumps. Maiden grass is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9 and is a low-maintenance plant. If grown in a site with adequate sun and moisture, maiden grass can live for up to 20 years.

Plant maiden grass rhizomes in early spring, when temperatures consistently average at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dig a 4-inch-deep hole in a sunny to partly shaded location with moist, well-drained soil. Make the hole slightly wider than the length of the rhizome you are planting.

Select rhizomes that are about 3 to 5 inches long. Plant a single rhizome horizontally in the hole and cover it with soil.

Pat the soil down firmly to remove air pockets. Space your maiden grass plants in rows that are 3 to 6 feet apart. Plants that will not be divided after the first year of growth will need ample space for growth.

Water the soil to a depth of about 5 inches and keep the soil consistently moist until new growth is seen above the soil.

Water emerged maiden grass plants only when the first inch of soil feels dry to the touch. Maiden grass is drought-tolerant, preferring slightly moist to dry soil, and does not require a lot of water once established.

Prune established maiden grass back once it browns each winter. Cut the blades back to 6 inches above the ground with pruning shears. Place plant debris in the garbage or burn it. Wild maiden grass species have been known to become invasive in the mid-Atlantic states, and while maiden grass is not considered an invasive species in California, placing debris in with your compost may result in unwanted growth elsewhere in your landscape.

  • Control weeds as needed during the first growing season by pulling.
  • When starting maiden grass in containers, place the plants in a protected outdoor area for at least one week prior to transplanting outside. This allows the plant time to harden off and reduces the risk of transplant shock.
  • Ornamental grasses like maiden grass generally have low nutrient requirements. Fertilization is not usually necessary, but if your plant is turning yellow and looks sparse, apply a small amount of a balanced natural fertilizer in the spring.
  • Do not fertilize maiden grass with lawn fertilizer. This will cause rapid growth that will result in weak stems that cause the blades to flop over.

Renee Miller began writing professionally in 2008, contributing to websites and the "Community Press" newspaper. She is co-founder of On Fiction Writing, a website for writers. Miller holds a diploma in social services from Clarke College in Belleville, Ontario.

This document describes the seeds as very small, with a primary dispersal means as being wind, but says that, "Once the connection with the plant is severed, the seed has reached its maximum fresh weight. The seed then dries down and enters a quiescent state until proper conditions for germination are met. Seeds of M. sinensis should follow a similar developmental pattern of other C4 grass species."

This pattern suggests that if the seed falls from the flower, then it is mature. Perhaps the simplest method of harvesting the seed on a small scale would be to use the old "bag-it" method of covering the flower with a cloth or fine mesh bag and securing it to the stem so that nothing can fall out. Then you could just check to see when seeds started falling and maybe help things along with a shake of the flower.

However many ornamental grass cultivars grown from collected seed are either not viable or do not "come true" to the parent. Anecdotal reports puts M. sinensis 'gracillimus' grown from collected seed at 50% true to parent. It may not be important in this case, but if you are looking for a uniform crop, it is something to consider.

Here's a wealth of info on this species including this cultivar: Unfortunately there is no mention of determining when seeds are ready to harvest.

Best Japanese Silver Grasses, Best Chinese Silver Grasses, Best Maiden Grasses, Best Eulalia

Adding structure and interest to the fall and winter garden, Miscanthus sinensis (Chinese Silver Grass) are fabulous ornamental grasses that should have a spot in any garden. Traditionally used in Japan in decorative art and gardens, Miscanthus made a royal entrance into occidental gardens about a century ago, thanks to the 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. Their erect, airy, plumed seed heads 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.

The species form of Miscanthus sinensis is invasive in several US states. The invasive potential is of less concern for many of its ornamental cultivars, some of which are sterile. However, as a general rule, do not plant more than one cultivar on your property, and use only a vegetatively propagated cultivar that has shown little or no evidence of self-seeding in your area. Discover beautiful U.S. native plant alternatives.

When it comes to selecting the right Chinese Silver Grass, the task may become daunting as there are over 150 varieties of Miscanthus sinensis to choose from. Below is a selection of the best and most distinctive Chinese Silver Grasses that could become the highlight of your garden. Many have been acknowledged by the Royal Horticultural Society as plants of outstanding excellence for garden decoration through its Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Best and most distinctive Japanese Silver Grasses

Miscanthus sinensis 'Flamingo' (Chinese Silver Grass)

Beautiful in her autumnal tints! Very floriferous, award-winner Chinese Silver Grass 'Flamingo' is a lovely ornamental grass grown for its rose-pink, slightly pendant flower plumes on display from late summer on. Flowering earlier than many Miscanthus varieties, they delicately change to silvery white as they mature and provide good winter interest. They rise gracefully, well above the elegant foliage of narrow, arching green leaves with prominent white midribs, which turn to orange gold shades in the fall. Easily grown in a dense, upright clump up to 5-6 feet tall (150-180 cm). Drought tolerant, it is deer and rabbit resistant!

Add to Any Collection

Miscanthus sinensis 'Ghana' (Chinese Silver Grass)

One of the best for fall color, award-winner Chinese Silver Grass 'Ghana' is a very attractive ornamental grass grown for its reddish flower plumes on display from late summer on. They delicately change to silvery white as they mature and provide good winter interest. They rise gracefully, well above the elegant foliage of narrow, arching, bright green leaves which turn a beautiful red-burgundy to golden yellow in fall. A very rewarding ornamental grass! Easily grown in a dense, upright clump up to 5-6 feet tall (150-180 cm). Drought tolerant, it is deer and rabbit resistant!

Add to Any Collection

Miscanthus sinensis 'Grosse Fontane' (Chinese Silver Grass)

Tall and majestic, award-winner Chinese Silver Grass 'Grosse Fontane' (Miscanthus sinensis) or 'Large Fountain' in English, is an impressive ornamental grass with attractive, airy plumes which emerge red in mid to late summer and turn shiny silvery-white in the fall. Remaining attractive all winter, they rise well above a graceful variegated foliage of long, arching green leaves, with white midribs running the length of each leaf, which turns to eye-catching orange, red and purple shades in the fall. Standing out beautifully in the garden and providing a wonderful winter interest, this perennial grass easily grows up to 8 feet tall (240 cm). Moderately drought tolerant, it is deer and rabbit resistant!

Noninvasive varieties of maiden grass available now

The ‘Scout’ variety of maiden grass adds interest to your garden when it waves in a breeze. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko ‘My Fair Maiden’ can be 9 feet tall with fluffy flower plumes. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

If you like the looks of maiden grass, but were put off because it is labeled invasive, there is good news. Noninvasive varieties of Miscanthus sinensis or maiden grass are now available, said Mark Yadon, vice president at Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses, 118 South Forest Rd., Williamsville.

And if you’ve never heard of maiden grass, check these new varieties out. They look good now with attractive foliage, but they’re even better in autumn when they get spectacular, fluffy flowers. It’s a good way to prolong interest in your garden when other perennials may be fading.

They’re deer resistant, too.

Background on DEC regulations

When garden centers sell Miscanthus sinensis, they have to tag it as invasive because it is designated as “regulated” by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Regulated species can be planted in your garden, but not in a wild area because those regulated plants might outcompete native plants. (See the entire definition of “regulated” here.) Garden centers can sell regulated plants, but they have to tag the plants as invasive.

Now you can have the looks of maiden grass without any worries about it spreading into wild areas. There are two new sterile varieties of Miscanthus sinensis that are exempt from the regulated designation: ‘Scout’ and ‘My Fair Maiden’.

‘Bandwidth’ gets its name from the yellow bands on the green foliage. While growers say it is sterile, it hasn’t yet been deemed noninvasive by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

A third variety, ‘Bandwidth’, is described by growers as infertile, but the DEC said it needs more information on sterility before that variety can also be exempt.

Why you should use maiden grass

Ornamental grasses in general are versatile because they come in such a variety of sizes, Yadon noted. They can grow anywhere from one foot tall to nine feet tall, and any height in between.

You can use an ornamental grass such as ‘Bandwidth’ as a low-growing, mounding plant in the front of a garden or in a pot. Taller varieties, such as ‘Scout’, which gets 5 to 6 feet tall, and ‘My Fair Maiden’, which gets 6 to 8 feet tall, can be used as a barrier to give you some privacy.

These grasses are perennials and will reliably come back each year, Yadon said.

‘Scout’ looks lovely waving in the breeze. The foliage is solid green with a slender white midrib, taking on warm, vibrant fall colors as temperatures go down. It can get up to 6 feet tall by the end of summer, topped off with spectacular fluffy, pinkish flowers. It grows in full sun to part shade.

‘My Fair Maiden’

‘My Fair Maiden’ has a vase shape and forms a dramatic mass in your landscape. The sturdy blades can get 6 feet tall, with flower plumes reaching 9 feet. The solid green blades feature prominent white midribs. It grows in sun.

Miscanthus Grass Care

Miscanthus ornamental grass

The world of ornamental grasses is so fascinating, these grasses have made such an impact on many landscapes and gardens. The Miscanthus Sinensis or maiden grass is another ornamental which has proven that it can spice up your garden with its amazing appearance. The Miscanthus is a native of Asia but can be seen growing throughout the United States. These grasses are used by many homeowners. Miscanthus can reach heights anywhere from 3-15 depending on the variety with feathery plumes which are showy.

Miscanthus is drought tolerant, these ornamental grasses are also known as the Chinese silver grass, Japanese silver grass, morning grass, or maiden grass. Zones 5-9 are ideal for these ornamental grasses.

These garden beauties are worth the investment and will give you that bang for your buck. For more on the growth and care of Miscanthus continue reading and see why this is a gardener’s favorite.

Planting Location

When installing Miscanthus it is good to look for an area that gets full sunlight because this plant is a full sun-loving ornamental grass with a spread or diameter of 2-4 ft

Soil Type

Miscanthus can thrive in a wide range of soil but prefers well-drained soil with a neutral, acidic, or alkaline ph.

Watering Methods

Watering your Miscanthus moderately and allow the soil to dry out somewhat before giving another drink of water.

Fertilizing Methods

It is best to feed Miscanthus once during the Growing season (spring) because over-fertilizing can cause your Miscanthus to have excessive growth which is not good.

Garden insect pests of the Miscanthus

Keep a watchful eye for this insect pest.

There are no known garden insect pests of the Miscanthus except for mealybugs. Mealybugs are small insects that appear as cottony white-grayish. These insects have been reported to attack Miscanthus in different parts of the united states. Control may be difficult, consider cutting or trimming your Miscanthus plant a foot or two above the soil and applying insecticidal soap.

Diseases of the Miscanthus

Keep an eye out for this disease.

Miscanthus bight is brought on by a fungus. The leaves of the Miscanthus which are infected are streaked with spots that are rust-colored-purplish. Control measures involve the total removal of the plant and properly disposing of it.

Ideas to where to install the Miscanthus

Miscanthus can be installed

  • in coastal areas as a border plant
  • Goes great planted by a pond
  • Try some in a rock garden
  • Can be used as a screen plant
  • Can be placed in pots and the pots can be placed on a patio or porch
  • looks great installed along a wall
  • Install alongside a fence
  • Can be used as a backdrop
  • Can be planted as a hedge

Container grown Miscanthus

When growing Miscanthus from a container the container should be large enough to accommodate your plant. The soil should be well-drained soil and the fertilizer can be a liquid feed fertilizer. Ensure that the container has drain holes for water. Place the container in an area that gets full sun.

Pruning procedures

Give your Miscanthus an annual trimming during the early winter months. The edges of the Miscanthus have sharp edges which can be painful if it comes in contact with your skin. Wearing strong garden gloves and a long sleeve shirt is acquit to protect your skin. Remove the grass close above the ground or just above the soil level.

A simple but yet effective way to prune Miscanthus is to tie the leaves up in a bundle and tie the bundle together with tie straps or twine and with a sharp hedge share cut back your Miscanthus.

It is best to time the trimming because what you don’t want is to delay the pruning producer and the new growth starts to grow with the old-growth because when you do decide to prune the old-growth the new growth will be trimmed also which will be defeating the purpose of pruning in the first place

Additional Information

1. These grasses are resistant to rabbits and deers.

3. Can take the salt sprays.

4. Miscanthus is considered an invasive plant.

5. Miscanthus can be found along heigh way exits.

6. Can be found alongside roadway exits.

The final word

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Miscanthus has proven that it can get the job done that’s why this garden beauty has made its way on the list of ornamental grasses. If you’re looking for an ornamental grass that fits this character then this is the grass for you. The miscanthus ornamental grass a grass that can spice up your garden with its beauty and style.

Watch the video: How to Plant an Ornamental Grass