Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Graceful Flame Grass

It is likely no surprise to anyone that ornamental grasses are an important part of gardening here in the Flint Hills. Hardiness and fall color are the two qualities prized above many for our grasses.

One of my two nominations for the best ornamental grass for the prairies would be the colorful and graceful Flame Grass, or Miscanthus sinensis 'Purpurascens'.  It doesn't seem to be sold much at the nurseries in my area, but I obtained a specimen early on in my garden and I wouldn't trade it for all the grasses I could grow.  'Purpurascens' is only a moderately tall grass for me, reaching about 4 feet in height, and it is not invasive in my garden.  It has the good manners to stand upright all year and not sprawl over every other plant in its vicinity as some grasses want to do. In fact, although reportedly hardy from Zones 3-9, it doesn't spread for me anywhere near the l0 feet listed in some descriptions, but stays as a nice 2 foot wide vaselike clump.  In the fall, though the picture at the left perhaps doesn't do it justice, it develops a brilliant orange-red coloring that can't be matched by any other hardy grass in my area and that coloring takes a full 2-3 months to fade to brown, even then often returning to a red shade when wet. What also can't be overlooked are the pure white inflorescence's of the bloom, which stand out above that red foliage. 

In one of the little tricks that botanists tend to play on us, this grass is also sometimes referred to as Miscanthus oligostachys. I can't tell you how aggravating it is to try to find out if renamed plants like this are still the same plant, or even which name is the current one in this case and the Internet has failed me in trying to look up this info. Regardless of what the experts have decided to call it this particular year, I haven't yet divided my 'Purpurascens', but I plan to spread its beauty several places in my garden next year.  Until then, my feet will return again and again over the winter to its bright spot in my garden.


  1. Hello! I've been looking for a grass exactly like this! We have a Japanese "zen" garden and are just adding some bonsai trees and have been looking for the perfect grass to complement them next to our bamboo fence. We live in Michigan so zone 5. Can you tell me exactly the name of this grass so I can find it at my nursery here or ask them to order it? What does it look like in the summer? Was this photo taken in August? Thanks so much. My email is I am also a blogger. Check out I think that's the address but the blog is called happenings in the house of Hoke

  2. Sorry make that


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