According to plant taxonomy, golden Hakone grass is classified as Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola.' The cultivar name, 'Aureola' is an allusion to the gold color of its leaves. Another common name for the plant is golden Japanese forest grass.
Plant Traits, USDA Planting Zones, Sun and Soil Requirements
This ornamental grass is grown for its attractive variegated foliage: It is green and gold and can also display a pleasing hint of red. It is arching in habit. The plant does produce a flower, but the bloom is considered insignificant. Plants will grow about a foot high, with a slightly greater spread.
It is recommended to grow this grass in planting zones 5-9.
The plant grows best in partial shade. A hint as to its preference not to be in pounding sunlight is the name, "forest grass" (suggesting a plant that grows in the wild on the forest floor, under the dappled shade of trees). Grow it in an evenly-moist soil with good drainage. Add soil amendments for optimal growth. For example, you can amend the ground with compost. Golden Hakone grass will grow better in a soil enriched with humus than it will in poor soil.
Suggested Uses in Landscaping
Use this plant for a well-behaved ground cover in shady spots in the yard, including along a shaded border or on the face of a hillside that is located in partial shade.
Its brightly-colored leaves make it a natural choice for various landscape color schemes. For example, if you are an admirer of blue and gold color schemes, grow it with shade-tolerant, blue-flowered companions such as Jacob's ladder and 'Jack Frost' Brunnera. Or to go strictly with foliage plants, combine it with blue-leaved hosta plants.
Care for Golden Hakone Grass
Some gardeners mulch the plant for winter protection at the northern limits of its range, although many do not bother doing even in zone 5 and the plant survives just fine. Mulch will also help the soil around your plants retain moisture in summer and keep weeds at bay.
But this is a low-maintenance plant. Remove the dead foliage from the prior season's growth any time from late fall to early spring. Some tend to leave the dead foliage alone until spring, figuring that it affords a bit of winter protection. Divide this perennial in spring, if desired.
One common task in plant care in the Northeastern United States and certain other regions that you will not have to worry about in this case is deer control. Golden Hakone grass is a deer-resistant plant.
Outstanding Features, Meaning of the Botanical Name
Let's conclude with a look at the meaning behind the scientific name, Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola.'
Hakone is a mountain in the plant's native Japan, while chloa is Greek for "grass." Meanwhile, macra indicates "big" in Greek. As already mentioned, the cultivar name 'Aureola' means "golden."
As already mentioned, this plant exhibits shade-tolerance and deer-resistance; these are among the outstanding qualities of this ornamental grass, along with, obviously, the golden color it offers for visual interest.
In addition, this type of ornamental grass is not invasive.