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Miscanthus sinensis
Miscanthus sinensis

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Miscanthus

Silver Grass
Poaceae (Gramineae)
Ornamental grasses and grasslike plants

Among the showiest and liveliest looking of ornamental grasses, these are clump-forming plants that range from very large kinds to dwarf types good for small gardens and containers. Attractive flower panicles appear atop tall stalks; they open as tassels and gradually expand into silvery to pinkish or bronze plumes that usually last well into winter. Leaves are broad or narrow, always graceful; they may be solid colored, striped lengthwise, or banded crosswise. In fall and winter, foliage of most species turns shades of yellow, orange, or reddish brown; it looks especially showy against snow or a background of dark evergreens.

Need little care. Cut old foliage back to the ground before new leaves sprout in early spring; in climates with a long growing season, cut back again in midsummer to keep compact and to freshen foliage. Some varieties collapse at bloom time unless given support of four or five narrow stakes inserted inconspicuously at edge of clump, concealed by foliage; wind twine or wire around stakes and clump at two levels. Divide every 2 or 3 years to limit clump size and prevent decline in vigor. Stunning accent plants in large pots or tubs.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’

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Miscanthus sinensis

Native to Japan, Korea, and China. Variable in size and foliage. Blooms in late summer or fall. Flowers are usually held well above the 5-ft. foliage clumps; they may be cut for fresh or dried arrangements. Many varieties are obtainable, and new ones arrive on the market every year.

Miscanthus transmorrisonensis

Native to Taiwan. Forms a compact clump to 2 1/2–3 1/2 ft. high and 3–4 ft. wide, with narrow leaves 2–3 ft. long, 1/2 in. wide. Foliage remains green into early winter (and is evergreen in mildest-winter areas). Slender, silvery flower plumes rise on stems 5–7 ft. tall.

Plant begins blooming in spring in mild-winter climates; cutting stems back to the ground when plumes begin to fade will produce a second bloom flush—sometimes even a third one. Cutting back stems also keeps the clump looking fresh. Where winters are cold, bloom time comes in mid- to late summer. Plumes age to tan and drop seed before winter, leaving bare stems. Makes a good large-scale groundcover if given regular moisture and yearly mowing.

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