Among the showiest and most beautiful of ornamental grasses, a clump of maiden grass grows to 7 feet by late summer. The top of a clump is wider than the bottom. The top may be 8 feet wide, emerging from a 24 inch diameter base. The stiff, arching leaves extend on all sides. Various cultivars have variegations that contrast with the green leaf tissue. The beauty of the leaves in summer is supplanted by the magnificent tan-to-red seedheads appearing in late August. Winter brings another period of beauty when leaves turn buff brown and the seedheads fade to silver. The plant surfaces seem to attract frost. Few things are more eye-catching than a frosted clump of maiden grass in front of a tall evergreen hedge.
Other Common Name: Eulalia
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color: August seedheads in tan-to-red
Mature Height x Spread: 7 feet x 8 feet
Light Requirements: Full sun
When, Where, and How to Plant
Plant in the spring, so it establishes before summer heat. Clumps are always purchased in containers. If planted in summer, water maiden grass occasionally. Wait until the new grass blades have grown 12 inches before dividing in the spring. Maiden grass tolerates both very dry and very wet sites. Dig a hole 3 times as wide as the container. There is no need to mix in soil amendments unless the grass is being planted in a larger island or flower bed. Spread the roots somewhat, by hand, before placing in the hole. Tamp down the soil around the roots and water thoroughly. Do not plant too deep. If water stands on the clump after rain, root rot can ensue.
Fertilize a fall-planted clump late the following spring, when the leaves have begun to grow vigorously. Give new plants 1/4 cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer in May, in late June, and late August. Give mature clumps 1 cup of 10-10-10 in May and in late August. Except at establishment, watering is rarely needed.
By spring, the leaves and stems will have become broken and tattered. Cut off all the foliage to a height of 6 inches to 8 inches. When the center of a mature clump becomes open or hollow, divide it. Dig up the whole root ball, then plunge a sharp shovel through the center. Each half can then be halved again. Plant one section in the original hole and look for other places where the grass can flourish.
Companion Planting and Design
Maiden grass’ texture is unlike any other plant, so it is a striking accent next to tall, bold plants like black-eyed Susan or purple coneflower. Use as a background to a perennial flower border, as a specimen plant in the middle of a lawn, or even as a hedge between properties.
My Personal Favorite
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’ is very striking, with bands of yellow variegation that cut across the blade every 6 inches from the base to the tip.