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The best maiden grasses for your garden

By: Garden Gate staff
Get three seasons of beauty with low-maintenance maiden grasses. See which one is best for your garden and learn our tips for growing these versatile plants.

best-maiden-grasses-lead2: It’s hard to miss the pretty gold-copper flowers of ‘Yaku Jima’ in late summer and fall. Later its leaves gradually turn the same rich golden color.

Everyone knows that maiden grasses are beautiful, easy-care plants. But they’re surprisingly versatile, as well. Those graceful leaves can be used for everything from vertical accents in a mixed border, to a soft, green, flowing mass of plants, to a spiky addition to containers. So no matter the size of your garden, you have room for at least one of these magical grasses.

Late-season garden plants

Cold-hardy to zone 5 (‘Purpurascens’ to zone 4!), these grasses really shine in late summer when they open their fuzzy flowers. In addition, they stand well through winter, providing garden interest. To top it off, maiden grasses have few pests or problems — even deer pass them by! (Though a few species can be invasive in some areas, the 6 cultivars you’ll see below are much better behaved.)

Maiden grasses are low-maintenance perennials

The only thing they need is an annual early spring cutting back and division every four or five years if the center of the clump starts to die out. (Do both just as the new growth starts to show.) See an easy way to cut them down below.

how-to-cutback-maiden-grass-in-spring

How to cut back maiden grass in spring

It’s simple to cut back a maiden grass in early spring. Follow these easy steps below.

  1. Wrap a length of heavy wire around the clump about a foot above the ground, pull it tight and twist the ends together.
  2. Add a second wire 6 to 8 in. above the first one if the plant is more than 3 ft. tall.
  3. Use a fine-tooth saw to cut the stems to about 6 in. above the soil.
  4. Carry the neat bundle of dried foliage to the compost pile and remove the wire.

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6 great maiden grasses

Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Little Kitten’)

‘Little Kitten’ makes an eye-catching container plant. (To overwinter it, slip the grass out of the pot and into the garden before the ground freezes.) But this grass works just as well in a smaller bed or rock garden. Or grow several of them together for an interesting textural mass.

Foliage and flowers Narrow blades form a compact mound, tan flowers in late summer to fall Light Full sun to part shade Size 12 to 15 in. tall (30 in. in flower), 12 to 18 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9

Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gold Bar’)

Looking for a focal point for a blah border? Try ‘Gold Bar’! Its broad bright yellow horizontal stripes along with its very upright habit make it a standout all season, especially when the burgundy flowers appear just above the leaves in fall.

Foliage and Flowers Upright green-and-yellow striped leaves, burgundy flowers in late summer to fall Light Full sun to part shade Size 3 to 5 ft. tall, 2 to 3 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9

Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’)

Say “maiden grass” and this is the one most folks think of. Classic ‘Morning Light’ has narrow (and sharp!) leaves with a thin stripe down the center of each. In late summer it sends up silky burgundy flower spikes that reach 4 to 6 feet tall and eventually grow softer and more cottony. With its tawny winter tones and a light coating of snow , the flowerheads are even more irresistible.

Foliage and Flowers Narrow arching blades form a graceful mound, burgundy panicles in late summer Light Full sun to part shade Size 4 to 6 ft. tall (in flower), 3 to 5 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9

Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Yaku Jima’)

It’s hard to miss those pretty gold-copper flowers in the photo above. This 3- to 4-ft.-tall dwarf (in flower) is also great in smaller gardens. The flowers appear by late summer, and by fall the foliage gradually turns the same rich copper color. Grow this grass with mums, asters and other fall-blooming flowers for a great color combination. Like all of these grasses, the plant remains standing right through winter.

Foliage and Flowers Narrow blades form a compact mound, coppery flowers in late summer Light Full sun to part shade Size 36 to 48 in. tall (in flower), 30 to 36 inches wide Hardiness Cold hardy in zones 4 to 9

Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Purpurascens’)

Most maiden grasses turn a warm tan or gold in fall, but the red-tinged green summer leaves of ‘Purpurascens’ take on the dramatic red-orange hue you see here. They gradually become a more subdued beige that carries through winter.

Foliage and Flowers Graceful leaves turn orange in fall, silver-pink panicles in late summer to fall Light Full sun to part shade Size 3 to 4 ft. tall (9 ft. in flower), 2 to 6 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9

Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’)

Though it produces pretty flowrs, it’s the foliage of ‘Variegatus’ that’s the star. Bold white stripes run the length of each leaf, making it a natural focal point plant. This big grass is very visible even in a large landscape. Use it next to a pond or water feature. It likes a moist setting, and the grass’s reflection in the water gives you even more bang for the buck!

Foliage and Flowers Arching white-striped leaves, cream-pink flowers in late summer Light Full sun to part shade Size 5 to 9 ft. (in flower), 4 to 5 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9

Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Little Kitten’)

‘Little Kitten’ makes an eye-catching container plant. (To overwinter it, slip the grass out of the pot and into the garden before the ground freezes.) But this grass works just as well in a smaller bed or rock garden. Or grow several of them together for an interesting textural mass.

Foliage and flowers Narrow blades form a compact mound, tan flowers in late summer to fall Light Full sun to part shade Size 12 to 15 in. tall (30 in. in flower), 12 to 18 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9

Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Yaku Jima’)

It’s hard to miss those pretty gold-copper flowers in the photo above. This 3- to 4-ft.-tall dwarf (in flower) is also great in smaller gardens. The flowers appear by late summer, and by fall the foliage gradually turns the same rich copper color. Grow this grass with mums, asters and other fall-blooming flowers for a great color combination. Like all of these grasses, the plant remains standing right through winter.

Foliage and Flowers Narrow blades form a compact mound, coppery flowers in late summer Light Full sun to part shade Size 36 to 48 in. tall (in flower), 30 to 36 inches wide Hardiness Cold hardy in zones 4 to 9

Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gold Bar’)

Looking for a focal point for a blah border? Try ‘Gold Bar’! Its broad bright yellow horizontal stripes along with its very upright habit make it a standout all season, especially when the burgundy flowers appear just above the leaves in fall.

Foliage and Flowers Upright green-and-yellow striped leaves, burgundy flowers in late summer to fall Light Full sun to part shade Size 3 to 5 ft. tall, 2 to 3 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9

Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Purpurascens’)

Most maiden grasses turn a warm tan or gold in fall, but the red-tinged green summer leaves of ‘Purpurascens’ take on the dramatic red-orange hue you see here. They gradually become a more subdued beige that carries through winter.

Foliage and Flowers Graceful leaves turn orange in fall, silver-pink panicles in late summer to fall Light Full sun to part shade Size 3 to 4 ft. tall (9 ft. in flower), 2 to 6 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9

Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’)

Say “maiden grass” and this is the one most folks think of. Classic ‘Morning Light’ has narrow (and sharp!) leaves with a thin stripe down the center of each. In late summer it sends up silky burgundy flower spikes that reach 4 to 6 feet tall and eventually grow softer and more cottony. With its tawny winter tones and a light coating of snow , the flowerheads are even more irresistible.

Foliage and Flowers Narrow arching blades form a graceful mound, burgundy panicles in late summer Light Full sun to part shade Size 4 to 6 ft. tall (in flower), 3 to 5 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9

Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’)

Though it produces pretty flowrs, it’s the foliage of ‘Variegatus’ that’s the star. Bold white stripes run the length of each leaf, making it a natural focal point plant. This big grass is very visible even in a large landscape. Use it next to a pond or water feature. It likes a moist setting, and the grass’s reflection in the water gives you even more bang for the buck!

Foliage and Flowers Arching white-striped leaves, cream-pink flowers in late summer Light Full sun to part shade Size 5 to 9 ft. (in flower), 4 to 5 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9

Published: Sept. 3, 2019
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