How to Plant and Grow Miscanthus

This tough but beautiful grass goes well with many other perennials.

This popular ornamental grass has a graceful, vase-like shape that fills the garden with a soft, airy texture. Also known as maiden grass, miscanthus looks good even when it's not in bloom. When it does bloom, the foliage is topped by silvery seed heads. The plants can grow large; look for dwarf varieties for small gardens and sterile types that won't reseed and become invasive.

'Morning Light' miscanthus
John Reed Forsman.

Miscanthus Overview

Genus Name Miscanthus
Common Name Miscanthus
Plant Type Perennial
Light Part Sun, Sun
Height 3 to 12 feet
Width 2 to 6 feet
Flower Color Pink, White
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Colorful Fall Foliage, Fall Bloom, Summer Bloom, Winter Interest
Zones 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Division, Seed
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant, Good For Privacy, Groundcover, Slope/Erosion Control

Where to Plant Miscanthus

Miscanthus makes the perfect backdrop for more showy flowering plants. Position taller varieties at the back of borders or the center of island beds. Larger cultivars also make dramatic specimen plants. It can act as a fast-growing garden screen, too, when you need a little privacy from neighbors.

In warmer climates, some miscanthus species are invasive, thanks to the copious amounts of seeds they produce or the spread of rhizomes. Look for sterile varieties that won't spread.

Invasive Plant

Chinese silvergrass (Miscanthus sinensis) is widely invasive even in northern climes. It is lovely to look at, but it displaces native plants. In dry conditions, its flammability creates a fire hazard. Before planting miscanthus, check your extension office to see if your variety is listed as invasive in your area.

How and When to Plant Miscanthus

The best time to plant miscanthus is in spring after the last frost. Garden soil with a 5.5 to 7.5 on the pH scale is best. Dig a hole only slightly deeper than the plant in its container but two to three times as wide. Amend the soil removed from the hole as needed. If it is clay, add bagged topsoil; if it isn't fertile, add compost or other amendments. If it is well-drained, fertile and loamy, you don't need to add anything.

Remove the root ball from the container and loosen the roots slightly. Set the plant in the hole at slightly above the level it was in the container. Add the soil previously removed and amended back to the hole and water the area. Add a 2-inch layer of aged mulch around the plant.

Miscanthus Care Tips


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.

Soil and Water

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 it is established, it can tolerate some dry spells.

Temperature and Humidity

Most miscanthus species are cold-hardy in Zones 5-9. Rugged Miscanthus x giganteus is hardy in Zones 4-9. The plants are most susceptible to frigid temperatures during their first winter after planting.


Don't fertilize miscanthus during the first year of planting. After that, feed it only once a year in winter or early spring with a mild organic fertilizer. For the amount to use, follow product label instructions. Too much fertilizer makes the plants weak, and they may flop over.


The foliage on miscanthus adds winter interest to the garden. Leaving the foliage on the plants through the winter protects 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.

Pests and Problems

The miscanthus mealybug slows down plant growth and excretes honeydew that supports the growth of fungi—miscanthus blight chief among them. Watch for purple spots on the stems and treat the plant with insecticidal soap when mealybugs appear. Remove sections of the plant that are affected by miscanthus blight and destroy them.

How to Propagate Miscanthus

As plants get older and form large clumps, they can lose vigor and die out in the middle. When this happens, dig up the plant and divide it to reinvigorate growth and expand the number of plants. Use a sharp shovel to divide the parent plant into several sections that each include a portion of rhizomes. Replant in similar soil conditions as the parent or in containers of garden soil if you plan to give away the extra plants.

To propagate miscanthus from seed, sow the seed on top of seed-starting mix in small 2.5-inch pots or flats. Press them into the soil but don't cover them. Keep them moist and warm, and germination will occur in one to three weeks. Transplant the seedlings into slightly larger pots—4-inch pots are ideal—and position them under grow lights to encourage root growth. After the last frost, they can be transplanted outside, positioned 2 to 3 feet apart.

Types of Miscanthus

Miscanthus x Giganteus

Miscanthus x giganteus
Andreas Trauttmansdorff

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)

'Gracillimus' Miscanthus

'Gracillimus' miscanthus
Rob Cardillo

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)

'Adagio' Miscanthus

'Adagio' miscanthus
Bob Stefko 

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)

Zebra Grass

Zebra grass
John Reed Forsman 

This variety of Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus' is one of the zebra-stripe varieties with horizontal yellow banding on the leaves. (Zones 6-9)

'Morning Light' Miscanthus

'Morning Light' miscanthus
John Reed Forsman

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)

Purple Miscanthus

Purple miscanthus
Peter Krumhardt

Miscanthus sinensis var. purpurascens is a compact 4-foot cultivar with reddish summer foliage that turns vibrant purple-red come fall. Its plumes of flowers bleach white in the sun. (Zones 6-9)

Miscanthus Companion Plants


Dean Schoeppner

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 is large and dramatic, and it needs plenty of space to show off. Although the huge funnel-shaped 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.

Perennial Sunflower

perennial sunflower
David Speer

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.

Queen of the Prairie

queen of the prairie
Peter Krumhardt

One of Filipendula rubra's common names says it all: queen of the prairie. This majestic plant is crowned with large, cotton candy-like 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.


Jim Krantz

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 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. Then, transplant outdoors after the last frost.

Garden Plans for Miscanthus

Fall Deckside Garden Plan

path illustration
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

Soften the edges of a deck or patio with this easy fall-focused garden. Ornamental grasses are the stars here, with mums and asters playing supporting roles.

Beautiful Bird-Friendly Garden Plan

garden illustration
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

This prairie-style garden is filled with low-maintenance plants that provide flowers and seeds for a host of birds and butterflies.

Soften a Fence With This Lush Border Garden Plan

garden illustration with fence
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

The exciting plants included in this design will provide long-lasting color, fragrance, and texture that will leave you saying, "What fence?"

Corner of Grasses

Corner of Grasses Garden
Mavis Augustine Torke

Create an exquisite corner garden with ornamental grasses. The distinct heights in the garden plan make a dramatic statement in the landscape.

Drought-Tolerant Garden Plan

garden with fountain
Peter Krumhardt

This informal mixed garden bed features drought-tolerant trees, evergreen shrubs, perennials, and annuals.

Fabulous Fall-Garden Plan

Fall Garden Plan Illustration
Illustration by Gill Tomblin

Create a burst of fall color in your landscape with this easy-care garden plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the uses for miscanthus?

    Most miscanthus plants are suitable for garden beds and borders, privacy, and slope and erosion control. In relatively recent developments, miscanthus has become a fiber source for pets, while the bamboo-like stalks of Miscanthus x giganteus have become a commercial biomass crop. The dry stems can be used as bio-fuel for heat, electricity, or conversion to ethanol.

  • How long does miscanthus live in the garden?

    With the proper care, most miscanthus species can live for 15 to 20 years in a garden setting. When they are grown as an agricultural crop, 20 to 30 years is possible.

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  1. Miscanthus sisensis. Invasive Species Extension

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