Maiden grass is a gracefully arching, fine-textured grass that forms dense, green clumps (Fig. 1). Slender leaves originate in a clump, spreading out and up like a fountain. The 5- to 6-foot-tall clumps bear pink flowers in late summer and fall that can be used for drying or as a dye plant. Their pinkish or silvery 8- to 10-inch-long plumes persist into the winter. Foliage is flexible and blows easily in the wind. This shrub-like grass turns to a rich gold in the fall; the fall color lasts through the winter.
Scientific name: Miscanthus sinensis
Pronunciation: miss-KANTH-us sye-NEN-sis
Common name(s): Japanese silver grass, maiden grass
Plant type: herbaceous; ornamental grass
USDA hardiness zones: 4 through 9 (Fig. 2)
Planting month for zone 7: year round
Planting month for zone 8: year round
Planting month for zone 9: year round
Origin: not native to North America
Uses: mass planting; border; container or above-ground planter; screen; accent
Availability: generally available in many areas within its hardiness range
Height: 5 to 6 feet
Spread: 5 to 10 feet
Plant habit: upright
Plant density: moderate
Growth rate: fast
Leaf arrangement: alternate
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: serrate
Leaf shape: lanceolate
Leaf venation: parallel
Leaf type and persistence: deciduous
Leaf blade length: more than 36 inches
Leaf color: variegated
Fall color: brown or tan
Fall characteristic: showy
Flower color: red
Flower characteristic: summer flowering; fall flowering
Fruit shape: no fruit
Fruit length: no fruit
Fruit cover: no fruit
Fruit color: no fruit
Fruit characteristic: no fruit
Trunk and Branches
Trunk/bark/branches: typically multi-trunked or clumping stems
Current year stem/twig color: not applicable
Current year stem/twig thickness: not applicable
Light requirement: plant grows in full sun
Soil tolerances: occasionally wet; acidic; sand; loam; clay; slightly alkaline
Drought tolerance: moderate
Soil salt tolerances: poor
Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches
Roots: not applicable
Winter interest: plant has winter interest due to unusual form, nice persistent fruits, showy winter trunk, or winter flowers
Outstanding plant: plant has outstanding ornamental features and could be planted more
Invasive potential: aggressive, spreading plant
Pest resistance: no serious pests are normally seen on the plant
Use and Management
Maiden grass is frequently used in the landscape as a specimen or screen. It is also employed in group plantings, forming a nice mass of fine-textured foliage, especially near a water garden or pond. Use maiden grass as an accent or mass planted in a large-scale landscape, such as around a commercial building to add a touch of soft elegance and texture. The slightest breeze moves the foliage, allowing the landscape to come alive. Many people prefer to cut the grass back to the ground in the spring so new green growth is not mixed with last year's dried, brown foliage.
Maiden grass requires a location in the landscape that receives full sun, but it is adaptable to most well-drained soils. This ornamental grass is quite drought tolerant. Miscanthus sinensis is a warm season grass and transplants best in the spring. Provide good drainage at the planting site. Three- and four-year-old plants tend to flop over and might thin in the center of the clump. They can be divided or cut back to encourage more upright growth.
Cultivars include 'Condensatus', coarser leaf texture than species, mid-summer bloom, 7 to 8 feet tall; 'Gracillimus', narrower leaves than species, fall bloom, upright growth habit from 5 to 8 feet tall; 'Purpurescens', reddish foliage in summer, purple-red foliage in fall, silver-pink inflorescence, mid-summer bloom, 4 to 5 feet tall; 'Silver Feather', silvery white flowers in mid-summer; 'Strictus', horizontal yellow bands on foliage, upright growth habit, 6 to 8 feet tall; 'Variegatus', white variegation on leaf margin, does relatively well in partial shade, to 7 feet tall; 'Yaku Jima', more compact, 3 to 4 feet tall; 'Zebrinus', horizontal yellow bands on foliage, wide spreading habit, to 7 feet tall.
The propagation of Miscanthus sinensis is by division in the spring.
Pests and Diseases
No pests or diseases are of major concern.
Rust diseases occasionally infest the foliage but it often goes away in drier weather.