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TREES & plants

Chinese silver grass

A group of miscanthus in full flower.

Chinese silver grass is known by many names, including maiden grass, eulalia, Japanese silver grass, and miscanthus.  It has been used widely in many landscapes and a great number of cultivars have been developed.  Of the numerous cultivars, most are hardy to zone 5 , while some are hardy to zone 4.  This grass should be used with caution.  In some parts of the United States, this grass has spread into natural areas by seeding and is considered invasive in those areas..  Review of risks should be undertaken before selecting this grass.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.

 

Botanical name: 
Miscanthus sinensis
All Common Names: 
Chinese silver grass, Japanese silver grass, eulalia, maiden grass
Family (English): 
Grass
Family (Botanic): 
Poaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Grass, 
  • Perennial
Native Locale: 
  • Non-native
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen, 
  • Massing, 
  • Hedge, 
  • Foundation, 
  • Mixed border, 
  • Screen, 
  • Patio/sidewalk, 
  • Container
Size Range: 
  • Large plant (more than 24 inches)
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 4, 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7, 
  • Zone 8, 
  • Zone 9
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Season of Interest: 
  • Early winter, 
  • Mid winter, 
  • Late winter, 
  • Early summer, 
  • Mid summer, 
  • Late summer, 
  • Early fall, 
  • Mid fall, 
  • Late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Other, 
  • Pink, 
  • Red, 
  • White, 
  • Yellow
Shape or Form: 
  • Arching, 
  • Upright
More Information: 

Size and Form

This grass can grow  up to 8 feet tall in flower, but the size will vary by cultivar.  It has an upright to arching habit.  It is a warm season, clumping grass.

Plant Care

Best growth is in moist soils and full sun.  Some cultivars vary in the among of soil moisture they need.  Some are more tolerant of dry soils while some are more tolerant of wet soils.

This is a warm season grass, so its most active growth occurs in summer.  It will remain standing in winter and can act as winter interest.
Since this grass remains attractive through winter, it should not be cut back until early spring, before new growth begins.  At that time, it can be cut down to the ground.

Disease, pests, and problems

Miscanthus mealybug (insect) and rust (fungal disease) are possible problems.
The grass can go to seed and spread into natural areas.  In some areas, it is considered invasive.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to Japan, China and Korea.

Leaf description

The leaves are up to 1 inch wide and up to 3 feet long.  They are medium green with a very distinct white midvein (many cultivars have striped or banded foliage.)  Autumn color depends on the cultivar.

Flower description

Flowering time is mid-summer into early autumn (usually July to September) and varies from cultivar to cultivar. The tiny flowers are held in tassel-like clusters that are held above the foliage. The clusters vary in color, depending on cultivar. 

Fruit description

The small fruit (caryopsis or grains) form along the tassel-like structures that held the flowers.  The fruiting structure takes on a silvery color and a fluffy appearance for winter.

Cultivars and their differences

Adagio silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Adagio'):  A compact cultivar growing 4 feet tall (5 feet in flower); flowers are rosy pink; leaves have some burgundy color in fall; hardy to zone 5.

Autumn Light silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Autumn Light'):  Grows to 7 feet tall (8 feet in flower); reddish pink flowers in late summer; hardy to zone 5.

Blondo silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Blondo'):  Grows to 6 feet; yellowing flowers mature to silvery white; coarse foliage; hardy to zone 4.

Bluetenwunder (Wonder Blooms) silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Bluetenwunder'):  Grows 5 to 6 feet tall; a heavy bloomer with pinkish white flowers; golden brown fall color; drought tolerant; hardy to zone 5.

Dixieland silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Dixieland'):  A compact cultivar growing 4 to 5 feet tall; pinkish flowers; green and white variegated foliage; hardy to zone 4.

Dwarf maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Yaku Jima'): A dwarf cultivar that grows 3 to 4 feet tall; tan flowers with a red tinge emerge in late summer; hardy to zone 5.

Flame grass (sold as Miscanthus sinensis  'Purpurescens', but now classified as Miscanthus 'Purpurescens'): Grows 4 to 5 feet tall; flowers tinged with red emerge in late summer; foliage turns orange red in fall and then changes to a darker red for winter, serving as a backdrop for the cream-colored seed heads; hardy to zone 4.

Gold Bar silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Gold Bar'):  A compact cultivar growing 4 to 5 feet tall; burgundy flowers appear late (in autumn); green foliage with horizontal gold banding; hardy to zone 5.

Gold und Silber (Gold and Silver) silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Gold und Silber'): A more narrow form, growing 5 to 6 feet tall; gold flowers appear late (autumn) and mature to silver; hardy to zone 5.

Gracillimus maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus'): A fine textured cultivar with thin leaves; grows 5 to 6 feet tall; deep pink to copper flowers in late summer; yellow fall color; drought tolerant; hardy to zone 5.

Graziella silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Graziella'): A fine textetured cultivar with thin leaves; grows 4 to 5 feet tall (6 feet tall in flower); silvery white flowers in mid-summer; coppery red fall foliage color; hardy to zone 5.

Little Kitten dwarf silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Little Kitten'):  A dwarf cultivar, growing 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall (3 feet tall in flower); arching, mounded form; silvery white flowers with a hint of pink; fall foliage color is golden; hardy to zone 5.

Little Zebra silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Little Zebra'): A dwarf cultivar, growing 3 feet tall (4 feet in flower); reddish-purple flowers in early autumn; green foliage with horizontal gold banding; hardy to zone 4.

Malepartus silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Malepartus'): Grows 5 feet tall (7 feet in flower); flowers in midsummer and flowers start out pink, then change to red and then silver as they mature; fall foliage color is bronze; drought tolerant; hardy to zone 5.

Morning Light silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning Light'):  A fine textured cultivar with thin, silver-variegated foliage; grows 5 to 6 feet tall; bronzy flowers appear in mid-fall; hardy to zone 5.

Nippon silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Nippon'): Grows 4 to 5 feet tall; flowers in midsummer, with the flowers starting out pink and then changing to red, and finally white at maturity; fall foliage color is reddish-bronze; hardy to zone 5.

Porcupine grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Strictus'): Grows 5 to 7 feet tall (up to 8 feet in flower); coppery flowers produced in early fall; green leaves with gold banding; overall form is more stiff and upright; hardy to zone 5.

Rotsilber (Red-silver) maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Rotsilber'): Grows 4 to 6 feet tall (7 feet in flower); flowers emerge pink-red and mature to silver; fall foliage color is orange-red; hardy to zone 4.

Sarabande maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Sarabande'): A cultivar with narrow leaves and a finer overall textrure; 4 to 5 feet tall (6 feet in flower); gold-copper colored flowers appear in late summer and mature to silvery white; hardy to zone 5.

Silberfeder (Silver Feather) silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Silberfeder'): This cultivar grows 5 feet tall (7 feet when in flower) and has a more relaxed, arching habit; large clusters of silvery flowers in late summer,  held well above the foliage; hardy to zone 5.

Variegated silver grass  (Miscanthus sinensis 'Variegatus'):  Grows 5 to 6 feet tall (7 feet in flower); red-tinged flowers appear in early fall; green leaves with white stripes; the form can be a little floppy; hardy to zone 4.

Zebra grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus'): Grows 5 to 7 feet tall (up to 8 feet in flower); coppery flowers produced in early fall; green leaves with gold banding; overall form is loose and relaxed; hardy to zone 5.

 

Miscanthus sinensis or Chinese silver grass