Both zebra grass and porcupine grass are cultivars of the same species and they look similar. Here are some tips to distinguish between these two popular ornamental grass varieties.
Zebra grass as well as porcupine grass have a tendency to turn invasive, as they produce new growths from underground rhizomes.
When it comes to landscaping and gardening, ornamental grass is very popular. There are numerous types of ornamental grass with different features and growth habits. While some of them are widely grown as turf grass, there are certain types that grow in clumps. Miscanthus sinensis is a grass species that is found in dense clumps.
As mentioned above, Miscanthus sinensis cultivars are popular for their clump-forming habit. Most of them grow upward, but the leaves arch out towards the ground with a cascading effect. You may also find some varieties that grow straight. Zebra grass and porcupine grass are cultivars of this species. Zebra grass is Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’, whereas porcupine grass is Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’.
As the names rightly suggest, both of them have horizontal stripes on their leaves. The stripes can be whitish-yellow to deep yellow in color. While zebras have a striped coat, the spines of porcupines are also striped. So, the names of these grass varieties are derived from their striped leaf blades. Both of them have almost similar features and growth habits. Given below is a comparison between porcupine and zebra grass.
Porcupine Grass v/s Zebra Grass
Both of them share characteristics like horizontally striped leaves and clump-forming habit. They belong to the same genus and are cultivars of the same species. Both are popular as ornamental grass. How to differentiate zebra grass from porcupine grass? Let us find out.
Zebra grass has a tendency to droop towards the ground, whereas porcupine grass grows upright. So, porcupine grass is slightly taller than zebra grass, which has a greater spread. Usually, the height of fully grown porcupine grass ranges from six to eight feet. In case of zebra grass, the height may range between six and seven feet. As it has the habit of arching towards the ground, zebra grass may spread five to ten feet from the base, while porcupine grass spreads six to seven fee
The leaf blades of porcupine grass are narrower and stiffer than that of zebra grass. Being stiff, foliage of porcupine grass grows upright, while that of zebra grass arches down. Even the stalks of zebra grass are flexible and arch towards the ground, as they reach full size. Zebra grass may flop over, especially during rains and heavy winds. So, tall stems have to be supported with stakes. The horizontal stripes on the leaves are irregular in both types, but they can be white to yellow in zebra grass, whereas porcupine grass is mostly found in yellow stripes.
Both zebra grass and porcupine grass produce inflorescences on central vertical stalks, during late summer. These feathery plumes last till late winter. The inflorescence of porcupine grass has a bronze hue with reddish undertones. Zebra grass inflorescence has a coppery hue with whitish or pinkish undertones.
These are some of the basic differences between porcupine grass and zebra grass. Both are ideal for landscaping. While zebra grass requires more sun, porcupine grass may tolerate partial shade and standing water to a certain extent. However, standing water is not good for zebra grass which is more tolerant to drought. Both these grass varieties require well-drained, moist, and fertile soil for a healthy growth. Water these plants twice a week, and feed them once before the spring. Deep watering is required during very hot summers. Remove the old foliage before spring, before new growth emerges.
Both zebra grass and porcupine grass can be grown as accent plants, borders, and hedges. They can also be grown in containers, near ponds and other water features. You may also opt for new cultivars with improved features.