miscanthus sinensis feature reed grass

Japanese Silver Grass – Miscanthus sinensis


The grass grows easily in medium moisture, average, well-drained soil in part shade to full sun. It is tolerant of a broad range of various soils that range from well-drained sandy soil to those heavy clays that are prominent in the St. Louis area. Does the best in full sun. Prefer moist soil. When it gets too much shade it is less vigorous with reduced flowering and tends to flop around too much. Tolerant of humidity and summer heat. Clumps expand in circumference slowly by short rhizomes. However, they have a tendency to maintain a tight clumped shape. For crown protection and visual interest, the foliage should be allowed to stand throughout the winter. In later winter, right before the new shoots start to appear the foliage should be cut near to the ground. Divide the crown to propagate. The grass reseeds up to the point of it being somewhat invasive within the milder areas of its overall growing range. Much can help to prevent reseeding from occurring.

Noteworthy Characteristics

miscanthus-feater reed grass

Commonly referred to as Japanese silver grass, Chinese silver grass, or Eulalia grass, Miscanthus Sinensis is a warm-season, clump-forming grass that tends to grow 3 to 7 feet tall. It is native to the lower alpine areas and lowlands of China, Korea, and Japan. It has escaped from gardens and is naturalized in more than 25 states in the Eastern and Central U.S. states that are east of the Mississippi River along with several western States which include California and Colorado.

The grass has a dense clump of leaves and stems that arch upward and give it a fountain-like, rounded appearance. Its linear leaves (3/8-inch wide and 3 to 4 feet long) have silvery to whitish midribs, serrate margins, and tapered tips. Its foliage frequently turns attractive shades of orange to yellow by mid-fall and then fades gradually to beige-tan for the winter. Red to pink flowers in loose, whisk-like, feathery terminal panicles (8 to 10 inches long) and bloom over the foliage starting in late August and lasting to October. Gradually the flower panicles start to turn beige in the middle of the fall as the seeds begin to mature. The foliage and flower panicles both retain ornamental interest, beige color, and good arching shape throughout the winter. Their attractiveness is often enhanced with a covering of newly fallen snow.

Miscanthus Sinensis can spread fairly invasively throughout the landscape, especially in some of its growing range’s milder areas. Often it will spread initially into disturbed sites like woodland margins, railroad right-of-ways, and roadsides. The species has significant invasive potential but is not as much of a concern for many ornamental cultivars, with some of them being sterile.

Its Genus name is direct from the Greek words of miskos, which means stem, and anthos, which means flower, which refers to its stalked spikelets.

The grass was formerly part of the Eulalia genus but was reclassified subsequently to the Miscanthus genus with many gardeners still calling it by one its of its common names of Eulalia grass.

bamboo Eulalia grass

‘Gracillimus’, which is also called maiden grass, is well-known for its green narrow leaves that have a silver midrib that forms an arching, rounded, and a substantial clump of foliage that tends to grow 4 to 6 feet tall (and up to 8 feet tall when it is in flower). After a frost, the foliage turns yellow but fades to straw-beige quickly by the winter. In late September, reddish-copper tiny flowers appear in tassel-shaped inflorescences over the foliage, which turns gradually into white silvery plumes as the seeds start to mature. It blooms at a later time than a majority of Miscanthus cultivar. Good winter interest is provided since the flower plumes continue to persist deep into the winter. Gracillimus’ is a very popular and old cultivar.


There are no frequently occurring disease or insect problems. In certain parts of the United States, miscanthus blight and miscanthus mealybug are starting to become major problems. Stunted growth is caused by Miscanthus mealybug and it is hard to eradicate since it lives inside of the stems of the grass. Miscanthus blight is a type of fungal disease that attacks the sheaths and blades. Leaf rust can occur as well.

Mature ‘Gracillimus’ clumps (3 to 5 years or older) produce substantial foliage that may need support at times.

Uses in the Garden

Versatile type of ornamental grass. Small grouping, specimen, or accent. Naturalized areas, cottage gardens, wild gardens, meadows, borders, or water/pond peripheries of gardens. Dried flowers are long-lasting.

Type: Ornamental grass
Common Name: Eulalia
Family: Poaceae
Spread: 3 to 6 feet
Height: 4 to 7 feet
Zone: 5 to 9
Bloom Description: Copper maturing through to silver
Bloom Time: August through February
Sun: Part shade to full sun
Maintenance: Low
Water: Medium
Leaf: Good Fall, Colourful
Flower: Showy, Good Dried, Good Cut
Other: Winter Interest
Attracts: Birds
Tolerate: Dry Soil, Erosion, Drought, Air Pollution, Black Walnut

ornamental grasses blowing in the wind

Ornamental Grasses Gardening Tips

These grasses have been increasingly finding their way into backyard gardens due to their elegant but simple maintenance requirements.

Their understated colours and charming shapes are highly appealing to gardeners.

baden grass garden waterfall

Suggestive names, like turkey foot, cloud grass, bottlebrush and foxtail are inspired by their inflorescences – their subtle flower plumes and tassels.

While most grasses are either categorized as spreading or clump forming, various types may grow to past-your-head or ankle heights. Known to perfectly fit flowerbeds, clump-forming grasses keep a compact shape. On the other hand, a lot of care should be taken, or containers used, when it comes to choosing clump forming varieties as they are known to be quite invasive in nature, with some imported varieties threatening native varieties when allowed to grow uncontrollably in the wild.

Since they usually do not require the use of fertilizers and chemicals, do well with minimal rainfall and a lot of sunshine, grasses are a great choice for environmentally friendly gardeners. Butterflies and birds are also attracted to native grasses, as they enjoy eating them.

Offering a wide range of colours, and appearance, these grasses really thrive during the summer season. Their outline shows against the snow, as they stand up well to harsh winter weather, when left to grow until spring without trimming.

Tips For Growing Ornamental Grasses

  • Grasses should be planted in clumps of at least 3 – 4 plants, to enhance their effect.
  • For each plant, dig a hole that is about twice or thrice the size of the root clump. Place the plants in the holes, positioning the crown just above the ground to keep it from being waterlogged, after turning out of the pot and separating the roots.
  • Wait until early spring to dig up clumps that have grown too big or whose centre has started to die back; leave a generous amount of soil along the edges of the clumps. Pry apart the root ball using a pair of garden forks and then replant them immediately after .
  • Cut these plants back during spring right before the sprouting of new growths. Grasses over a metre in height should be trimmed down to about 10cm while those below a metre should be trimmed down to around 5cm.

Design Tips

With a natural planting style that is changing long held border composition notions, Piet Oudolf is a world renowned Dutch garden designer. The designer recently worked along side Martin Wade, a renowned landscape architect, known for the Arrival Courtyard and Entry Garden Walk design at the Toronto Botanical Garden as he seeks to spread his new ideas in public gardens across North America.

The careful selection of plants and their placement is essential to the success of naturalistic gardens which are known to be spontaneous and deceptively wild. When it comes to creating rhythm, excitement, and harmony, grasses are considered to be important elements by Oudolf.

Here is a list of tips when using grasses in a design:

  • Combine grasses with some of their natural counterparts: Astrantia (Masterworts), Echinacea (Coneflowers), Sanguisorba (burnets), Monarda didyma (Bee balm) and other meadow flowers and prairie plants are great examples of non-invasive, long-lived and hardy perennials you can consider.
  • Since grasses can help bring together discordant hues, experimenting with form and texture should be prioritized over the creation of artistic combinations of colour. The soft airy clouds of Deschampsia cespitosa may be contrasted with the rounded Echinops (globe thistle) flower heads in a typical naturalistic combination.
  • You can induce different moods using grasses: You can create a powerful effect by planting grass in uniform blocks, or create a calming effect by repeating the same type of grass. You can also evoke a nostalgic mood by creating a countryside feel by planting grasses in loose drifts.
  • Late season perennials that are known to be jewel toned, such as joe-pye weed, various asters, and sedums blend well with the burnished strands of grasses during fall. Furthermore, Miscanthus, Deschampsia and Calamagrotis grasses are known to shine through the frost during winter.

6 Ornamental Grasses ideal for Canadian Climates