The Miscanthus group of grasses are proving to be the most popular grass. They are generally tall, upright growing, but taking little room at ground level, so easy to fit into an existing shrub or perennial border.
Miscanthus sinensis are spectacular grasses through mid summer and on into the winter. Firstly with their flower plumes of white, cream or pink shades, which then turn into seedheads as the grasses settle in for the Autumn and winter months.
Depending upon the type, Miscanthus ornamental grasses can be either evergreen or deciduous, bust they all have the same basic characteristics. Clumps or tufts of foliage, which are invariably green or grey green long leaves which are based upon long stems. The individual leaves are spear shaped.
From this basal clump the long flower stems shoot upwards, bearing silky hairy flowers - normally held well above the basal foliage of the plant.
Miscanthus sinensis Yakushima Dwarf
The flowers normally emerge from mid summer through into Autumn, by which time they are turning to seedheads - no less attractive, and in many cases more attractive than the flowers which precede them.
Miscanthus will grow in virtually any soil type and tolerate dry conditions quite well. The Miscanthus types that we mention here are all fully hardy, and if deciduous, will sprout into growth again the following Spring. The evergreen types tent to be a little dowdy in the winter months.
The Autumn is a spectacular time for Miscanthus grasses, with foliage turning various shades of light brown or even reddish-brown, and the seedheads often fluffy feathery spikelets - eager to catch any sun that enhances their appearance.
The images below are just a small selection of Miscanthus Grasses.
L - R Miscanthus nepalensis | Miscanthus sin. Rotsilber | Miscanthus sine Silberspinne | Miscanthus sin. Zebrinus
Nothing to do!! They really do look after themselves once planted in the right position. Maintenance simply means taking off any damaged or dead leaves in the summer. Please be careful to wear gloves. Some of the leaves have sharp edges.
Each spring, they will need a bit of a tidy-up of the previous year's foliage and dead seed heads. A hefty pair of hedging shears is normally best, though secateurs may be needed. Throughout the summer and autumn periods, they require little if any attention. A good soaking once a week in severe drought conditions. A bucket of water better than an overhead sprinkler.
Pests and diseases of this group of grasses - in common with most of the Ornamental Grasses - are not a problem.
Miscanthus can be planted in shrub or herbaceous borders or in specific grass beds. best in open conditions and not heavily overhung with dense tree branches. They grow quite rapid once started each spring - some varieties getting to best part of 2m - 6ft. They are invaluable - though wasted - for use as a screen for an unsightly object.
Full sunshine is best, but light shade also suits. For the best display in autumn/winter, work out where the low sun will be at a preferred time of day, then either site the grasses so that the sun either beams in from the side, or with seedheads - from behind if possible. Foliage is not to be ignored at this time, so full frontal sun on the light brown foliage is also quite spectacular. Little attention to details make the difference between a good and average garden!
Miscanthus can be quite effective if planted at the edge of a pond - though not in boggy conditions. However, the Miscanthus sinensis Zebrinus in the image above, was growing in a bog garden - albeit near the edge.
Determine the overall size of the mature plant and position according to variety information.
Miscanthus can be propagated by seed or division.
Seed can be sown in seed trays or pots in mid spring - preferably in cold greenhouse or coldframe. If in heated propagator, then not too hot!
Divide plants - that is to say slice down around the edges of the plant stump with sharp spade - leaving the main crown intact. This is done just as growth starts in the spring.
With seeds and divisions, do not be in too much of a hurry to plant out. Better to grow the young plants on for a year in suitable pots, and plant out in the garden the following spring.
Listing of Miscanthus varieties to follow.