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Miscanthus, a prized ornamental grass, is a garden specimen with a graceful, vase-like shape that fills the garden with soft, airy forms. Also known as maiden grass, miscanthus looks good even when it’s not in bloom. When it does bloom, the fine foliage is topped by silvery seed heads. The plants can grow quite large; look for dwarf varieties for smaller gardens.
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Part Sun, Sun
From 3 to 20 feet
From 2 to 6 feet
garden plans for Miscanthus
Miscanthus imparts subtle beauty to any space. With silvery green foliage and feather-like blooms, the grass partners well with other plants and blends into garden beds. With some varieties reaching upward of 12 feet tall, it can act as a fast-growing garden screen.
Miscanthus Care Must-Knows
To grow the strongest stand of plants possible, place miscanthus in well-drained soil with a good amount of organic matter. Miscanthus likes evenly moist soil, but once established can tolerate some dry spells.
Full sun is best for miscanthus; when planted in part sun, the grass tends to flop. Full sun also gives miscanthus the most intense fall color possible, which, depending on the variety, can be a stunning purple, red, orange, or gold. Sun is also best for flower production, allowing the plants to produce large amounts of feathery blossoms.
Regular maintenance is minimal. As plants get older and form large clumps, they can start to lose vigor and die out in the middle. When this happens, dig up the plant and divide it to reinvigorate growth.
The foliage on miscanthus adds winter interest to the garden. Leaving the foliage on the plants through the winter can protect the crowns from the cold, which is especially helpful in colder climates. Just before new growth emerges in spring, cut back the plants to a few inches above the ground. In warmer climates, some varieties of miscanthus can become slightly invasive, as they produce copious amounts of seeds. If this is a concern, look for sterile varieties that won't spread.
Not many garden plants serve as many purposes as miscanthus. This handy grass has been used for roof thatching, crafts, and paper products, and more recently, biofuels. The sterile hybrid known as Miscanthus x giganteus can reach about 12 feet tall; given its sterility, it focuses all of its energy on growing. The large amount of nitrogen produced by miscanthus is stored in its rhizomes so it doesn't need an application of nitrogen fertilizer. The plants also sequester more carbon than traditional row crops. Keep an eye on this promising new use; someday you might see fields of this grass being farmed for biofuels.