Insiders Guide to Miscanthus


Miscanthus is one of the fundamental staples of the late summer and autumn garden. It is known for its delicate upright foliage and showy tasseled plumes late in the season. It originates from Asia and has been grown in North America and Europe for over 100 years now. It is native in a wide variety of situations from wet marshlands, to meadows, and on mountainsides in poorer soil throughout China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. It includes almost 20 species in the genus.


COMMON NAME: Porcupine Grass, Maiden Grass, Japanese Silver Grass

TYPE: Ornamental Grass (See all Ornamental Grasses Here)

HISTORY: Liberty Hyde Bailey wrote of Miscanthus sinensis (then Eulalia japonica) which was offered for sale by nurseryman John Dick in Philadelphia in 1878 and 1879. The variegated form 'Zebrina' was offered as well. The plant is known for being one of the "Seven Plants of Autumn" in Japan where it was revered for its simplicity and visual enjoyment.

GROWING TIPS: Miscanthus is a low maintenance perennial grass. It will tolerate a wide range of growing conditions, but prefers full sun and average moisture. Be sure not to over fertilize, as it will produce lanky soft growth which will flop as it increases in size.In warmer climates we suggest the use of sterile cultivars which will help reduce the spread of plants into the wild.  

ZONES: 4-9

HEIGHT: 3-5' on average, some varieties will reach 12' or more

BLOOM TIME: Late Summer into Autumn

EXPOSURE: Prefers full sun

DESIGN TIPS: Miscanthus comes in an amazing range of foliage colors and sizes. Their clumping habit of pendulous foliage is unique and adds a great deal to the landscape. Hybridizers have created some truly majestic plants with a wide range of foliage colors and habits. They can be used as a focal point in the garden, as well as in mass plantings to great effect. They are superb for helping transition from wilder, more natural, areas of the garden to a more cultivated area. They range in size from small (1') up to incredibly dramatic varieties topping out at 12'.

OTHER NOTES: Once established ths plant is tough as nails. We suggest dividing the plant every few years, otherwise you will end up with a very established plant which will be virtually impossible to divide later. If planted away from structures and other plantings these can be lit on fire in the spring instead of cutting back. Be cautious as they burn very quickly and very hot. 

VARIETIES:Well over 100 named cultivars. (Click here to find all currently available varieties and more individual varietal information.)