Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ Morning Light Maiden Grass1

Edward F. Gilman2

Introduction

Maiden grass is a gracefully arching, fine-textured grass that forms dense, green clumps. ‘Morning Light’ has a white band along each margin. Slender leaves originate in a clump, spreading out and up like a fountain. The 5- to 6-foot-tall clumps bear pink flowers held above the foliage in late summer and fall that can be used for drying or as a dye plant. Their pinkish or silvery 8- to 10-inch-long plumes persist into the winter. Foliage is flexible and blows easily in the wind. This shrub-like grass turns to a rich gold in the fall; the fall color lasts through the winter.

General Information

Scientific name: Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ Pronunciation: miss-KANTH-us sye-NEN-sis Common name(s): ‘Morning Light’ maiden grass Family: Gramineae Plant type: herbaceous; ornamental grass USDA hardiness zones: 4 through 9 (Fig. 1) Planting month for zone 7: year round Planting month for zone 8: year round Planting month for zone 9: year round Origin: not native to North America Uses: mass planting; border; container or above-ground planter; screen; accent Availability: generally available in many areas within its hardiness range Figure 1.

Shaded area represents potential planting range.

Description

Height: 5 to 6 feet Spread: 5 to 10 feet Plant habit: upright Plant density: moderate Growth rate: fast Texture: fine

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: alternate Leaf type: simple Leaf margin: serrate Leaf shape: lanceolate Leaf venation: parallel Leaf type and persistence: deciduous Leaf blade length: more than 36 inches Leaf color: variegated Fall color: brown or tan Fall characteristic: showy

Flower

Flower color: red Flower characteristic: summer flowering; fall flowering

Fruit

Fruit shape: no fruit Fruit length: no fruit Fruit cover: no fruit Fruit color: no fruit Fruit characteristic: no fruit

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: typically multi-trunked or clumping stems Current year stem/twig color: not applicable Current year stem/twig thickness: not applicable

Culture

Light requirement: plant grows in full sun Soil tolerances: occasionally wet; acidic; sand; loam; clay; slightly alkaline Drought tolerance: moderate Soil salt tolerances: poor Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches

Other

Roots: not applicable Winter interest: plant has winter interest due to unusual form, nice persistent fruits, showy winter trunk, or winter flowers Outstanding plant: plant has outstanding ornamental features and could be planted more Invasive potential: aggressive, spreading plant Pest resistance: no serious pests are normally seen on the plant

Use and Management

Maiden grass is frequently used in the landscape as a specimen or screen. It is also employed in group plantings forming a nice mass of fine-textured foliage. Use maiden grass as an accent or mass planted in a large-scale landscape, such as around a commercial building to add a touch of soft elegance and texture. The slightest breeze moves the foliage, allowing the landscape to “come alive.” Many people prefer to cut the grass back to the ground in the spring so new green growth is not covered with last year’s dried, brown foliage.

Maiden grass requires a location in the landscape that receives full sun, but it is adaptable to most well-drained soils. This ornamental grass is quite drought tolerant. Miscanthus sinensis is a warm season grass and transplants best in the spring. Provide good drainage at the planting site.

Other cultivars include ‘Condensatus’, coarser leaf texture than species, August bloom, 7 to 8 feet tall; ‘Gracillimus’, narrower leaves than species, October bloom, upright growth habit from 5 to 8 feet tall; ‘Purpurescens’, reddish foliage in summer, purple-red foliage in fall, silver-pink inflorescence, August bloom, 4 to 5 feet tall; ‘Silver Feather’, silvery white flowers in August; ‘Strictus’, horizontal yellow bands on foliage, upright growth habit, 6 to 8 feet tall; ‘Variegatus’, white variegation on leaf margin, does relatively well in partial shade, to 7 feet tall; ‘Yaku Jima’, more compact, 3 to 4 feet tall; ‘Zebrinus’, horizontal yellow bands on foliage, wide spreading habit, to 7 feet tall.

The propagation of Miscanthus sinensis is by division in the spring.

Pests and Diseases

No pests or diseases are of major concern.

Rust diseases occasionally infest the foliage but it often goes away in drier weather.

Footnotes

This document is FPS407, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date September 1999. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county’s UF/IFAS Extension office.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’

Miscanthus is native to eastern and south-eastern Asia and there are 20 species in all. The most important horticulturally is M. sinensis, whose named forms are grown for their grassy heads rather than their foliage. But in the cold heartland of England (where I live) miscanthus rarely makes it into flower before late August.

By contrast, gardeners in the west and south-east have flowers by August and sometimes before then. But there are early, middle and late varieties on offer; where you live should influence your initial choice.

Discerning Japanese gardeners have grown ‘Morning Light’ for more than 100 years, but it was introduced into the USA only in 1976, when it was collected along with ‘Cabaret’ and ‘Cosmopolitan’ for the US National Arboretum in Washington DC.

‘Cabaret’ is well-named as its variegated, bright green and cream stripes are wide and showy like those on a racy George Melly suit. They are probably the widest stripes found on any grass and this impressive specimen can also reach 3m (9ft) in height.

‘Cosmopolitan’ is similar but the variegation is reversed. Its leaves have a wide green middle surrounded by a subdued cream edge, so it’s much subtler in tone than ‘Cabaret’. Both need a bright position to keep their variegation, but full sun can scorch the leaves.

Other variegated miscanthus have been grown in Britain for much longer. Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) used the green and yellow ‘Zebrinus’ to cast light and shade, as did William Robinson (1838-1945).

He was also a fan of the vertically striped white and green ‘Variegatus’ and described both as “valuable and singularly attractive”. They were introduced from Japan circa 1870 and Jekyll and Robinson pioneered their use, along with other grasses.

These old favourites are still grown today, although the gracefully arching ‘Zebrinus’ has been replaced in some people’s affections by the more uprightly rigid ‘Strictus’, or by ‘Pünktchen’. ‘Dixieland’ is a is newer, dwarfer version of ‘Variegatus’.

For a diminutive miscanthus that flowers, seek out ‘Yakushima Dwarf’, which produces tightly held, upward-facing flowers that keep their shape.

Growing tips

M. sinensis is a clump-forming grass that tolerates a variety of conditions, although taller varieties are less impressive when grown on poor, dry soil.

‘Morning Light’ can be grown in shade or sun and still shine. It’s also excellent in a container. But it is the exception. Most miscanthus are too tall to grow in a pot and are best placed in a warm, open position to encourage flower and preserve leaf colour.

Autumn is an excellent time to plant new miscanthus on most soils. Those on heavy, cold soil should plant in spring, however. The hardiness of variegated miscanthus is questionable but I’ve never lost one yet. Position flowering varieties where afternoon sun falls, as in winter the seed heads shimmer and glow in the low, cold light.

I never cut ‘Morning Light’ down but let the new leaves appear. But I do cut all others down to the base in late January. Divide in late spring, if needed. Always take care when handling miscanthus foliage, as it can lacerate the hands.

Good companions

‘Morning Light’ is excellent with interesting foliage, whether its frosty-leaved brunneras, silvery lamiums or rich green ferns. It is equally good in a gravel garden or in full sun, fronted by dark, strappy Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’, and it flatters dark penstemons, deep-blue agapanthus and dark sedums. It is also good rising abover silver artemesias and ballotas.

Taller miscanthus needs to be grown with equally statuesque, late-season perennials, such as asters, veronicas, monardas, echinaceas and rudbeckias.

Where to buy

Knoll Gardens, Hampreston, Wimborne (01202 873931; www.knollgardens.co.uk).

Hoecroft Plants, Severals Grange, Holt Road, Wood Norton, Dereham, Norfolk (01362 684206; www.hoecroft.co.uk).

Reader offer

Readers can buy one Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ in a 9cm pot for £9.95, or two for £15.90 (saving £4).

Call 0870 950 5926, quoting Ref TL395, or send cheques made payable to Telegraph Garden to Telegraph Grass Offer, Rookery Farm, Joys Bank, Holbeach St Johns, Spalding, PE12 8SG. Delivery within 28 days.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’

Miscanthus not flowering Afernoon, I bought a grass from you about 3 or 4 years back. It is a Miscanthus sacchariflorus. It has thrived well, is green and lush, but to date, it hasn’t flowered. Am I doing anything wrong? Are you able to give me some advice please? I must add that I have bought a number of plants from you since you set up your web site and have been delighted with them all. The quality of each plant is excellent, as is the packaging and delivery. Regards Marion

Marion

2009-09-13

Hello Marion, There are a number of reasons why plants don’t flower including too much shade, not enough water or nutrients, or pruning at the wrong time of the year. It can also be caused by the plant putting on new root growth instead of focusing its energies on producing flowers. I am not really sure why your Miscanthus has not produced flowers, but you can often give them a bit of a push by feeding with a high potash fertiliser. Best regards and thanks for the positive feedback. Helen Plant Doctor

2009-09-21

Crocus Helpdesk

Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ hedge? Hi, Having seen a stunning display of the Cotinus planted with a band of Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ in front of it, at the National Garden of Wales recently, I would like to try and reproduce the effect of the silver against the purple background. My problem however is space. I am in the process of providing a new bed which is approximately 6 feet long by 3 feet wide. Although you quote the Cotinus as growing to about 5m x 5m, you also suggest pruning it hard back to the base each year. If I prune annually as suggested, would it be possible to retain it to say a 1 – 1.5 m high bush, allowing the Miscanthus to be planted in front, thus forming a contrasting foil when viewed from both patio and lawn. If this is not considered viable, can you suggest another purple / dark red or similar bush that would provide a similar effect. Many thanks, Brian.

Brian Boon

2009-07-27

Hello Brian, Cotinus is a pretty big shrub, but if you cut it back to within 2 or 3 buds from the base each year in early spring, then it shouldnt get too muchh higher than 1.5m. Alternatively you could opt for one of the purple leaved Berberis – just click on the following link to go straight to them. http://www.crocus.co.uk/search/_/search.berberis/ I hope this helps. Helen Plant Doctor

2009-07-27

Crocus Helpdesk

Outstanding Qualities

Featuring blue-green foliage with white margins, ‘Morning Light’ is a silvery addition to the border. Dense seed heads in late summer and early autumn provide movement in the garden.A common fault of Miscanthus sinensis is that several of the cultivars splay open as they get older. ‘Morning Light’ does not. This adaptable large-scale grass is easy to grow and handsome. It should be cut to the ground in late winter and requires no other maintenance. It looks great combined with Fothergilla gardenii and other larger growing perennials like Thalictrum delavayi ‘Hewitt’s Double’ and gunneras to add a light texture. It can be used in combination with annuals to provide stature and variety of texture. It looks particularly good when planted with large-leaved perennials for contrast.

Quick Facts

Plant Type: clumping grass

Foliage Type: deciduous

Plant Height: 5 ft. 0 in. (1.52 meters)

Plant Width/Spread: 4 ft. 0 in. (1.22 meters)

Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 to 10

Sun/Light Exposure: full sun

Water Requirements: occasional watering during dry weather

Resistant to: deer

Colors & Combos

Great Color Contrasts: orange, purple, burgundy

Great Color Partners: dark green, gold, silver

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