How to Grow Maiden Grass

maiden grass

The Spruce / K. Dave

Maiden grass is a tall ornamental grass that would be worth growing for its graceful arching form alone. But it boasts other desirable features, 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 are yellow somewhat by mid-fall and fade to a beige in winter, they are still colorful enough to provide much-needed winter interest.

General Facts
Botanical Name Miscanthus sinensis
Common Name Japanese silver grass, maiden grass
Plant Type herbaceous; ornamental grass
Mature Size 3 to 8 feet
Sun Exposure Full sun, partial shade
Soil Type Moist but well-drained
Soil pH Neutral to acidic
Bloom Time Late summer, fall, winter
Flower Color Reddish silver
Hardiness Zones 5 to 9 (USDA)
Native Area Asia
Toxicity Non-toxic
Maiden grass

Maiden Grass Care

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 accepting of clay soil, it will perform better in well-drained soil. Once established, it is a drought-tolerant ornamental grass.

Light

Maiden grass enjoys bright sunlight, with about 6 hours of direct light a day, but can handle some shade.

Soil

The grass grows in many soil types though prefers organic and well-drained matter. Maiden grass can tolerate everything from excess moisture to droughts and humidity. They also can grow in sand and salty environments, which is why they are commonly used in coastal landscaping.

Water

After the first planting, maiden grass must be thoroughly soaked to strengthen its roots. Keep in mind to water at the root to prevent leaf rust, which occurs when leaves are burdened with water. In its first year, maiden grass needs to be watered approximately two to three days a week, as they do appreciate water. Once established, their hardy composite will endure regular weather conditions with supplemental care needed during times of drought and severe heat.

Temperature and Humidity

Maiden grass enjoys the warm weather and thrives in southern regions with temperatures that can reach up to 80 to 95 degrees. However, they can withstand winter temperatures.

Fertilizer

The grass works efficiently from its water supply, thus requiring very little fertilizer and pesticides. In fact, maiden grass' best option is using organic soil supplied from manure and compost.

Invasive Species

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.

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.

closeup of maiden grass

The Spruce / K. Dave

maiden grass used as mulch

The Spruce / K. Dave

maiden grass in front of a home

The Spruce / David Beaulieu

Maiden Grass Varieties

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

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 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.

If none of these uses applies to your yard, simply use maiden grass as a specimen plant for winter and spring landscapes.

Pruning

To keep your maiden grass healthy, clip back in the late winter/early spring before new growth appears. Be sure to wear long sleeves and heavy gardening gloves since the plants are fairly sharp. Secure the top with rope and cut three inches from the ground using hedge clippers.

Propagating Maiden 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 the 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.

Start by digging the holes where you want to replant your grass. Use a pointed shovel or spade, remove a patch, plant a few feet apart from one another, and drench with water.

How to Grow Maiden Grass from Seed

To grow maiden grass indoors by seeds, fill a planting tray with potting soil and keep aerated and moist. Situate in a warm space with temperatures above 60 degrees. It should take up to a year before you have mature enough grass to survive outdoors.