This popular ornamental grass has a graceful, vase-like shape that fills the garden with soft, airy texture. 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 as well as sterile types that won't reseed and become invasive.
Miscanthus imparts subtle beauty to any space. With silvery green foliage and feather-like seedheads, this ornamental grass makes the perfect backdrop for more showy flowering plants. It can also can act as a fast-growing garden screen when you need a little privacy from neighbors.
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 invasive, thanks to the copious amounts of seeds they produce. 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.
Related: Easy Ornamental Grasses
More Varieties of Miscanthus
Miscanthus x giganteus is a sterile hybrid reaching staggering heights of 12 feet in one growing season. Grown largely for biofuels, this plant also acts as a great screen. Zones 4-9
This variety of Miscanthus sinensis is one of the more common varieties found, of moderate height at 4 to 6 feet tall, and has lovely thin foliage with prominent silver midrib. Zones 5-9
Miscanthus 'Adagio' is one of the smallest miscanthus varieties on the market, reaching 3 to 4 feet tall, but it has all the charm of its taller relatives. Zones 5-9
This variety of Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus' is one of the zebra-stripe varieties with horizontal yellow banding on the leaves. Zones 6-9
This selection of Miscanthus sinensis makes dense, silvery 4-foot clumps of fine-textured arching leaves edged with white. Its reddish-pink plumes of flowers mature to tan. Zones 6-9
Miscanthus Companion Plants
Hibiscus flowers might be the most dramatic in the garden and can bloom as large as a child's head in gorgeous colors. The hibiscus plant itself is large and dramatic, and it needs plenty of space to show off. Although the huge funnel-shape flowers seldom last more than a day, they are abundant and the plant blooms over several weeks. The large leaves tend to draw Japanese beetles. Hibiscus needs plenty of water, so grow it in rich, loose, well-drained soil where you can water it easily and regularly during dry spells.
A big, bodacious, beautiful plant, perennial sunflower is imposingly tall and floppy with large (up to 4-inch), bright yellow flowers that form in loose clusters. Most of these natives thrive in full sun and are not fussy about soil. The taller ones may need support. Excellent for cut flowers.
One of this flower's common names says it all: queen of the prairie. This majestic plant is crowned with large, cotton-candylike heads of fluffy flowers in late summer. The plant's divided leaves provide brilliant textural contrast in the garden. It loves moisture, so it's ideal for growing beside sunny ponds or streams, although it also thrives in moist, rich garden soil. It is seldom nibbled on by deer or rabbits.
Nothing beats a dahlia for summer color. Growing these varied, spiky flowers is like having a box of garden crayons at your disposal. The flowers form on branching, fleshy stems, or open in solitary splendor on the bedding-plant types in mid- to late summer. Several different flower categories, from the petite mignonettes to the gigantic dinner-plate dahlias, offer possibilities for any space. Expert dahlia growers recommend pinching off the first crop of side flower buds to encourage vigorous plant branching and larger flowers in peak season. All dahlias are fodder for brilliant seasonal cut bouquets and are always one of the most popular cut flowers at local farmer's markets. Their blooming season extends into fall and is only halted by the first frost. Gardeners in climates colder than Zone 8 should cut back the withered foliage after the first frost and dig up tubers to store over winter. For a fast start with dahlia plants before it's safe to plant outdoors, pot the tubers up, water sparingly and grow in a sunny location until sprouts appear, and then transplant outdoors after the last frost.
Garden Plans for Miscanthus
Soften the edges of a deck of patio with this easy fall-focused garden. Ornamental grasses are the stars here, with mums and asters playing supporting roles.
This prairie-style garden is filled with low-maintenance plants that provide flowers and seeds for a host of birds and butterflies.
The exciting plants included in this design will provide long-lasting color, fragrance, and texture that will leave you saying, "What fence?"
Create an exquisite corner garden with ornamental grasses. The distinct heights in the garden plan make a dramatic statement in the landscape.
This informal mixed garden bed features drought-tolerant trees, evergreen shrubs, perennials, and annuals.