Japanese forest grass

Japanese hakone grass used as a ground cover.

Japanese forest grass is a low-growing grass that can be planted close together to form a ground cover.  There are some interesting cultivars that provide color in the landscape.

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


Botanical name:

Hakonechloa macra

All Common Names:

Japanese forest grass, hakone grass, hakonechloa grass

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Grass,
  • Ground cover,
  • Perennial

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Container,
  • Foundation,
  • Massing,
  • Mixed border,
  • Patio/sidewalk

Size Range:

  • Medium plant (12-24 inches)

Light Exposure:

  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • 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,
  • Late spring,
  • Early summer,
  • Mid summer,
  • Late summer,
  • Early fall,
  • Mid fall,
  • Late fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Other

Shape or Form:

  • Arching,
  • Creeping

More Information:

Size and Form

Japanese forest grass is relatively low-growing (1 to 2 feet tall), with arching leaves that provide a sweeping appearance as though the plants were flowing.  The plant will spread by rhizomes, but very slowly. It can be used as a ground cover for this reason.

Plant Care

Best growth is in a cool, partly shaded site.  Soil should be moist, but also well-drained.

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

No serious pest problems.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to Japan.  Found in cool mountain habitats.

Leaf description

Leaves are 3 to 6 inches long and 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide.  Leaves of the species are bright green and have a bamboo-like appearance.  There are cultivars with variegated foliage.  Leaves will dry to brown for winter.

Flower description

The tiny flowers are held on light, airy clusters that are not very showy.  Flowering time is late summer

Fruit description

The small fruit (caryopsis or grains) form along the open clusters that held the flowers.

Cultivars and their differences 

All Gold (Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold'): A more compact cultivar (12 to 15 inches), with golden leaves.

Aureola (Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'): Leaves are yellow and green striped.  Foliage is more likely to burn in hot sun.

Beni-Kaze (Hakonechloa macra 'Beni-Kaze'):  Green leaves turn to red in fall.

Fubuki (Hakonechloa macra 'Fubuki'): Green and white striped foliage that develops orange tones in fall.  14 inches tall.

Naomi (Hakonechloa macra 'Naomi'):  Foliage is yellow and green striped in summer.  Develops red-purple shades in all.

Nicholas (Hakonechloa macra 'Nicholas'): Green leaves in summer.  Develops good orange and red color in fall. 8 to 16 inches tall.

Stripe It Rich (Hakonechloa macra 'Stripe It Rich'): Gold and white striped foliage; 6 to 10 inches tall.

Location of Hakonechloa macra (Japanese forest grass) at the Arboretum