Zebra grass is a graceful and impressive ornamental grass that lends a cream- or yellow-striped foliage to the landscape. Its showy nature and ease of maintenance makes it one of the most popular ornamental plants.
A Graceful Maiden
Zebra Grass is also known as Maiden Grass, Japanese Silver Grass, or Eulalia, with the botanical name being Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’.
Zebra grass is a deciduous perennial grass native to Japan. It is formed in clumps and are a wonderful and attractive display in the garden. The plant gets its name from the bright cream-yellowish-colored series of banding that makes it stand out among other plants in the landscape. It can be planted in a garden as well as in containers.
The plant is used as fillers, border plants, ground covers, or in walkways due to its clumping habit. The foliage dies off in cold weather, even though, it is a perennial plant. It produces new leaves in spring which show brighter striping as the leaf matures. They complement the other flowering plants because of their adaptability and subtle beauty. It is easy to grow and care for. Read further to know about Zebra grass.
Characteristics of Zebra Grass
Common Name: Zebra Grass
Botanical Name: Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’
Plant type: Herbaceous/ Perennial
Growth Rate: Moderate to fast
Height: 4 – 7 feet
Spread: 6 – 8 feet wide
Foliage: Green with yellow bands
Blooms: Late summer
Attributes: Showy, Ornamental
► Zebra grass thrives in plant hardiness zones 4 – 9.
► It grows best in full sun with partial shade, and has a growth rate of moderate to fast, reaching up to 7 feet in height and 5 feet in width. The tall leaves spread out like an elegant fountain which adds beauty to your garden.
► It is drought tolerant and grows well when planted in moist but well-drained soil.
► It bears large copper-colored flower spikelets over an arched clump of green leaves that are banded with yellow. They appear in autumn and last through the winter.
► It is a low-maintenance plant.
Planting Zebra Grass
► Zebra grass is easy to grow and requires very little care which makes it a good choice for the first time gardeners.
► Select an area which receives plenty of sunlight and is partially shaded.
► This plant is tolerant to different kinds of soil condition―normal, sandy, or clay. For optimal growth, the soil should be moist, but well drained.
► The soil should be mildly acidic to mildly alkaline i.e., it should have a pH of 6.1 – 7.8.
► The best time for planting Zebra grass is spring or fall.
► Work a six-inch, generous amount of compost and other organic material before planting it.
► Place the plants about 36 – 48 inches apart to avoid your garden becoming a jungle.
► Dig a hole deep enough for the root ball to grow and expand well.
► Water the plant thoroughly after placing it.
► In cooler places, select a place on the western side of the house where the plant will be protected from chilly climate.
► If growing in containers, it will require more water provided the temperature is above 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Let the water flow out completely.
► Make sure, you plant zebra grass in containers that have drainage holes.
► Water your zebra grass 2 – 3 times a week during the first growing season. Although the plant is drought tolerant, it benefits from irrigation during the warm and dry months. Once established, the watering can be reduced. Do not overwater or water frequently in winters as it can lead to the root getting damaged and bacterial attacks. Allow the soil to dry before watering the plant.
► Make sure, you fertilize the plant annually during spring with a fertilizer having the ratio of 10-10-10. Fertilize when you notice symptoms of weak growth, any kind of deficiencies, or discoloration.
► Trim down the grass to about 5 inches before new growth in early spring. It doesn’t need pruning during the growing season, but should be trimmed to create room for fresh and new growth. To avoid the spreading of pathogens, disinfect your pruning tools.
► Trim it the second time during mid-summer to rejuvenate the foliage and to keep the plant compact. It is useful especially in climates with long growing seasons.
► Dividing your plant once every 3 – 4 years will be helpful in keeping it attractive and healthy. For places with mild climates, dividing in autumn is the best; while, in colder climates, dividing in spring is appropriate. For dividing, dig up the entire plant and cut it into sections with a sharp knife with roots and foliage included in each. Remove the old and dead center, and transplant the sections about 3 – 4 feet apart.
► Cut back the flower spikelets in either, spring or fall. You can leave the dry flowers until spring if you wish to see the rich texture that it adds to the landscape.
► Remove the seed heads from the rest of the flower plumes in the fall season. The seeds that are mature will easily get distributed by the wind leading to the propagation of the plant in the areas nearby.
Watch Out For
► The plant is seldom affected by insects and diseases but you need to keep an eye out for them.
► The tall foliage may sometimes fall over, especially, when over-fertilized or kept in shade or snow constantly.
► There may be a need to stake the plant if it doesn’t stop falling even after heavy pruning.
► Zebra grass is sharp, and has razor-like foliage which can cause cuts and bruises. Ensure that you wear gloves and long-sleeved shirts when working on this plant. Also make sure that you plant it a bit away from the walkways as people may brush past it which could damage the plant.
► In warmer climates, zebra grass has a tendency of becoming invasive. In order to stop its invasive tendencies, it is recommended that you grow it in containers or install root barriers. It will help your plant to look compact and tidy.
Taking care of your plant will ensure its good health and growth. Zebra grass is a low-maintenance plant that requires very little attention, which is why it is favorite among all the ornamental grasses. Moreover, it looks good as a specimen plant or when planted as hedges, adding to the beauty of your garden. Happy Gardening!