Japanese Blood Grass Plant Profile

Japanese Blood Grass

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Ornamental grasses are a valuable part of any garden, providing texture and movement over a long season. Japanese blood grass adds an element of vibrant color to the border, giving you a red accent for your garden design that isn't limited to a particular blooming period. Although Japanese blood grass has developed a thuggish reputation in some gardening circles for its invasive qualities, you can choose a sterile cultivar or use container culture to control this exuberant plant.

Botanical Name Imperata cylindrica
Common Name Japanese blood grass; cogongrass
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size One to two feet
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Moist, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic to alkaline; 6.5-7.5
Bloom Time Rare
Flower Color Insignificant
Hardiness Zones USDA growing zones 5-9
Native Area Japan, China, Korea
Cogongrass
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Japanese Blood Grass Containers
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Japanese Blood Grass Close Up
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How to Grow Japanese Blood Grass

Japanese blood grass is an easy-to-grow ornamental grass that provides reliable color as the season progresses. The serrated foliage is unattractive to deer and rabbits, and the rapid growth habit fills in hillsides quickly to help with erosion control. Be aware that some states have declared the Japanese blood grass a noxious weed, and the unnamed species is especially virulent in the landscape.

Light

Japanese blood grass shows its best coloration in full sun, at least six hours of direct sun per day. In Southern gardens, some afternoon shade is tolerated.

Soil

Provide your Japanese blood grass with moist, well-drained soil. The plants grow well in sandy soils, and can even thrive in coastal gardens.

Water

Japanese blood grass grows vigorously in the presence of moist soils, but it tolerates drought conditions as well. Only irrigate the plant as necessary to prevent browning of foliage.

Temperature and Humidity

Japanese blood grass grows well in a wide range of temperatures. In the warmer reaches of its zone boundaries, the plants can spread and displace other garden plants with their rhizomes. Both humid and dry conditions are tolerated by the grasses.

Fertilizer

No fertilizer is needed to grow Japanese blood grass successfully, as the plants will grow in poor soil. Extra nutrients may cause the grass to grow aggressively.

Potting and Repotting

Japanese blood grass isn't picky about potting soil or container types. Grasp the plant by the root ball and loosely pack the potting medium around the plant. Repot in the spring or fall as needed when plants become crowded with spreading rhizomes.

Propagating Japanese Blood Grass

Japanese blood grass is easy to propagate by division, even for beginners. Cut into the plant with a spade in the spring or fall, when growth is most active. Don't be afraid to make many small divisions as needed, as the plants will grow and mature rapidly.

Varieties of Japanese Blood Grass

'Rubra' Japanese Blood Grass
'Rubra' Japanese Blood Grass. Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder
'Red Baron' Japanese Blood Grass
'Red Baron' Japanese Blood Grass. Mark Turner/Getty Images

Because of its invasive tendencies, gardeners should take care to purchase only the named, sterile cultivars, which include 'Red Baron' and 'Rubra.' These grasses don't look different from the species, but have the important attribute of forming few or no flowers, and spreading slowly by rhizomes rather than quickly taking over the flowerbed.

Toxicity of Japanese Blood Grass

Japanese blood grass doesn't have any known toxic effects. Animals avoid foraging on this plant due to its sharp edges.

Pruning

Japanese blood grass plants look attractive throughout the winter months, and may be somewhat evergreen in most climates. Leave the plants standing until spring, and then cut them back, or just trim away dead foliage.

Being Grown in Containers

Container culture is best for regions at risk of the weedy potential of the Japanese blood grass. Combine the striking plants with trailing red million bells, petunias, or wax begonias.

Growing From Seeds

The desirable named cultivars of Japanese blood grass do not produce viable seeds. It isn't recommended to grow seeds of the invasive species type.

Common Pests/Diseases

Japanese blood grass isn't bothered by any pest or disease problems. Plants that revert to green should be removed.

Japanese Blood Grass vs Purple Fountain Grass

Purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setacecum) gives instant cachet to summer borders and container gardens. The dark purple stems and bronzy plumes make handsome companions for green, pink, and purple plants. Purple fountain grass is a tender perennial that is often treated as an annual, and it can be expensive to replace, so it isn't always a suitable replacement for the hardy Japanese blood grass.