November 2008 Plant Profile: Miscanthus sinensis

The most common and popular of the large ornamental grasses, Miscanthus sinensis comes in many different forms and variations just to suit any garden that requires very little care and year round interest. Perhaps the oldest and most well known variety of Maiden Grass is ‘Gracillimus’ (pictured here); Miscanthus sinensis are dependable plants that can thrive in poor soils and is quite drought tolerant once established. It is spectacular as a specimen or used as a large mass planting in the landscape and truly provides year round appeal (yes, even when it’s cut back in spring, the sheared mounds looks very attractive!). The one fault many M. sinensis cultivars have, however, is the splaying habit they have once they mature in the season and prepare to flower in the fall. ‘Morning Light’ is a variegated cultivar with a more upright habit and less prone to splitting from the center. One technique one of our librarians, Carrie Bonham, suggested is to cut back Miscanthus sinensis in mid-summer so it develops a new flush of blades that stay more compact. You lose the bloom, but the result is a clump of grasses that’s far more manageable and in scale with the rest of the plants in the border. In November, the long blades of grass turn a wonderful shade of yellow and orange with the frothy maroon plumes just starting to open.

Location: Bed 8 and South Slope (see the cut-back grasses by the Osmanthus hedge).
Family: Poaceae
Origin: Original species from Easter Asia (China, Korea, Japan)
Height: 3-6+ ft.
Spread: 3-6 ft.
Bloom Time: November
Bloom Color: Purple maroon plumes
Sun: Full Sun
Water: Medium-Low moisture. Various soil conditions.