Porcupine GrassMiscanthus sinensis 'Strictus'
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Miscanthus sinensis 'Strictus'
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Porcupine Grass is a very striking and elegant tall ornamental grass with bold rings of golden yellow every few inches up the leaves. This unique horizontal banding creates a beautiful and exotic look like no other grass can bring to your garden. The leaves can reach 6 feet tall, and they are topped with many red flowering stems up to 8 feet tall. Plant it as a dramatic lawn specimen, or among gravel and boulders. Grow it in beds, alone or in groups, for stunning backgrounds. Plant it along streams or by a pond, or near your swimming pool. It looks beautiful in planters and pots, and it has a look that is exotic, elegant and modern all at the same time.
Plant Porcupine Grass in full sun, in any well-drained soil. Richer, moist soils will give the tallest growth, but this grass is also drought resistant and grows well by the sea. Deer and rabbits don’t eat it, and it is generally free of pests or diseases. The only care needed is to cut it back to 6 inches tall in spring. It may take some time to re-sprout, waiting for warmer weather, so don’t assume it is dead.
For a unique look in your garden, few plants are as striking and different as Porcupine Grass. The horizontal golden bands on the long leaves are a rare and striking pattern in plants, and its bold, upright structure, reaching 6 or 8 feet, makes it a great specimen plant. Some people are afraid of ornamental grasses, because some older types spread like the devil, and quickly turn half your garden into an impenetrable jungle. Not this one, or any of its relatives among the maiden grasses. They all develop into neat compact clumps that expand, but never spread. So, if you had a bad experience, try again, because ornamental grasses are so very useful in the garden, and they ask so very little. They are at their best in summer and fall, when we use our gardens most, and they contrast so beautifully with flowers and shrubs that they deserve wide use.
Porcupine Grass is a clump-forming grass that forms a dense clump of upright leaves about ¾ of an inch wide, but 3 to 6 feet long. They rise in a tight column, only arching over at their upper ends, so this grass, although tall, takes up less room than many other tall grasses. The slender leaves are a rich green, with a slightly glossy surface, and every few inches they are banded with a ring of golden yellow. Almost all variegated plants have vertical striping, either along the edges of the leaves, or up the center. This horizontal variegation is only seen in Porcupine Grass, and the very similar Zebra Grass, (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’). This effect is very eye-catching and appealing, and it does indeed reflect the look of the banded quills of a porcupine. Note that this grass is considered superior to Zebra Grass, which is smaller and has a more open structure, because it holds its form better, without flopping and without needing stakes and ties.
Between mid-summer and mid-fall, depending on your zone, mature clumps of Porcupine Grass flower. Above the leaves rise many flowering stems that reach 6 to 8 feet tall, and sometimes even taller. The last 8 to 12 inches of the flowering stem is an open tassel of many thin stems, carrying the pink to reddish-tan grass flowers. These stems remain attractive for weeks, and they look beautiful and entrancing as they sway in the breeze.
When fall arrives both the flower stems and the leaves eventually turn golden yellow to tan, but they don’t fall over, and this grass looks beautiful through winter. In warmer zones it may stay green for most of the winter months. You have months and months of beauty from this grass, as it passes through its seasonal changes.
Grow Porcupine Grass as a stand-alone specimen in a lawn area – there you can fully appreciate its grandeur. Create a lovely effect by planting it with a few other specimen bushes, spaced well apart, in a bed mulched with gravel and decorated with boulders. Plant it alone or in groups in beds, in the background, where it looks wonderful. Space plants in clumps about 3 feet apart. Grow it by a stream or pond, or near your swimming pool, where it will also hide pumps and equipment very effectively. Grow it in a large planter or half-barrel, or in a colorful ceramic pot – make sure it has a drainage hole. It looks fantastic sitting on a patio, terrace or large balcony. This versatile plant can be used all around your garden, and wherever it is grown it will be amazing.
Porcupine Grass is hardy from zone 4 to zone 9, growing well in all those zones. It is perhaps the hardiest of the maiden grasses, which mostly survive only in zone 5. It may not flower much in zone 4, or only in fall, but it is still a wonderful grass to grow for its beautiful and unique leaf patterning. Attention to good drainage in winter is especially important in zones 4 and 5.
Plant Porcupine Grass in full sun for best development and sturdy growth. It thrives in any well-drained soil, and for maximum size it enjoys richer soils, and a good supply of water, but not constant wetness. Once established it is drought resistant, and resistant to salt spray too. Deer and rabbits ignore it, and it is normally free of pests and diseases.
Simply cut back your Porcupine Grass to about 6 inches tall in spring, or earlier, once the leaves have completely died. Nothing else is necessary. This is warm-season grass, so it can be slow to start sprouting. Don’t think it is dead, just be patient – it will re-sprout vigorously once warmer weather comes.
Porcupine Grass is a unique variety of maiden grass, Miscanthus sinensis. This grass is native to Japan, China and Korea, and it is also called silver grass, or eulalia grass. You may have heard of this grass being invasive in parts of America, but cultivated forms are generally safe to grow, and don’t seed successfully. We don’t know the origin of the form called ‘Strictus’, but it probably originated in Japan, where most of the other forms of maiden grass have come to us from. This grass won the prestigious Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit in 2001.
With its striking and unique leaf pattern, and its hardiness, Porcupine Grass is always a hot seller. Don’t hesitate to order it right away, because it will be gone while you are still considering it. Don’t worry, you will love this wonderful plant.