Maiden grass is a tall ornamental grass that would be worth growing for its graceful arching form alone. But it boasts other desirable features, too, including coppery flower heads in early fall that transform into silvery white plumes. When in flower, this clump-forming plant will reach 6 to 8 feet tall, and its stems redden in the fall. A silver stripe runs up the middle of the sword-like green leaves. While the leaves yellow somewhat by mid-fall and fade to a beige in winter, they are still colorful enough to provide much-needed winter interest.
Plant Taxonomy of Maiden Grass
Plant taxonomy classifies this plant as Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus.' The genus name, Miscanthus is derived from two Greek words, mischos ("stalk") and anthos ("flower"). The specific epithet, sinensis, means "of China." Finally, 'Gracillimus,' the cultivar name, means "very graceful." In addition to maiden grass, another common name for Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus' is eulalia. It is indigenous to Korea, China, and Japan.
Growing Maiden Grass
Maiden grass can be grown in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 9. It will grow best in full sun and needs evenly moist ground when young. Although tolerant of clay soil, it will perform better in well-drained soil. Once established, it is a drought-tolerant ornamental grass.
Maiden grass needs some room, as the clumps eventually get quite large. Divide the plants every few years to "spread the wealth" and keep the clumps more manageable. Cut the foliage down to ground level in late winter or early spring to make room for the new shoots. Leaving the dead grass stalks to wave in the breeze during winter accomplishes two things: The stalks serve as a sort of mulch to protect the living parts of the plant underground, and they can make for some nice winter scenes, especially after a snowfall.
It's important to note that the U.S. Forest Service reports that Miscanthus sinensis is considered an invasive plant in many states. For eradication, they recommend spraying with glyphosate herbicide (such as RoundUp). It spreads via rhizomes.
Uses for Maiden Grass
As a tall plant, maiden grass can be used in the back rows of flower beds to serve as a light-colored backdrop for black flowers and other dark plants, or it can be used in beds as a focal point, surrounded by smaller plants. Its fine texture provides a nice contrast to plants with coarse textures. Since it prefers a soil on the moist side, consider using maiden grass around water features.
Given its height and dense growth pattern, maiden grass can be used in a mixed, loose shrub border for informal privacy screening or to create an ornamental grass hedge. Maiden grass also works well with the airy look sought in cottage gardens.
Other Cultivars of Miscanthus Sinensis
There are many types of Miscanthus sinensis. The following are prized for their variegated foliage:
- Zebra grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus'): horizontal golden bands, arching form
- Porcupine grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Strictus'): horizontal yellow bands, erect form (think of the rigidity of a porcupine's quills)
- Variegated Japanese silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Variegatus'): vertical white stripes along the edges, arching form