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Zebra grass, or Miscanthus Sinensis ‘Zebrinus,’ is a type of ornamental grass that originated in Japan.
It’s true that zebra grass dies back in the winter, but these plants are perennial so they’ll come back in the spring.
Young, striped grasses in the spring, coppery inflorescence in the summer, golden leaves in the fall, and textural, formative winter interest are all provided by the grasses.
When allowed to reach its full height of 6 feet (2 meters), zebra ornamental grass makes a stunning screen or focal point plant.
Characteristics of Zebra Grass Plants
When it comes to garden plants, few are as eye-catching as these.
Long, arching leaves with attractive stripes across the width characterize zebra ornamental plants, which look like dappled foliage when grown in full sunlight.
The foliage of this perennial plant dies back in the winter, but the bare bones of the plant are architecturally fascinating.
In the spring, it sprouts brand new, dark green leaves that, as they age, develop distinctive golden stripes.
The USDA plant hardiness zones 4 through 9 are suitable for the plants.
To get the best results from your zebra grass, plant it in full sun or partial shade.
Its clumping nature makes it ideal for use as a hedge or as a standalone container plant.
Site Conditions for Growing Zebra Grass
The plant’s coppery, feathery inflorescences develop during the hot, sunny summers that follow.
The plant then goes on to produce fluffy seeds, which act as an ethereal diversion among the late fall foliage.
Established grasses can withstand brief periods of drought, but it performs best in moist soils or even on boggy riparian edges.
In the United States of America, zebra grass thrives in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 9.
Before planting, dig in at least 6 inches (15 cm) of compost or leaf litter.
Install the plants at a distance of 36 to 48 inches (91 cm to 1 m) apart in the spring, when they are dormant.
Placement on the western side of the home, in a sheltered area or somewhere the cold doesn’t pocket, is recommended for regions with lower average temperatures.
How to Care for Zebra Grass
- Almost no pests or diseases can harm a zebra grass plant. While foliar rusts and leaf damage from chewing insects are possible, the plant is generally resistant to such problems.
- For optimal development, make sure there is plenty of water and exposure to sunlight. Container gardening is easy, but the plants will require more water than those in the ground.
- Apply a high-quality organic fertilizer in the spring. You can prune the flower stalks in the fall or the spring. Leave the dry, feathery flowers until spring if you like the way they look. If not, trim them in the fall to within a few inches (8 cm) of the plant’s crown. As soon as you notice damaged foliage, remove it.
- The leaf blades will droop if the plant is in the shade for too long, but a stake or tomato cage will keep them standing straight.
If you want the best results from your planting, give it lots of sunlight.
The leaf blades will droop if the plant is in the shade for too long, but a stake or tomato cage will keep them standing straight.
In order to thrive, zebra grass needs a slightly alkaline soil environment.
The best growth conditions for this grass are wet, even flooded, riparian edges.
Zebra grass requires consistent watering while young, but once it is established, it can be used as an ornamental grass that can withstand dry periods.
Temperature and Humidity
Soil temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and air temperatures a little higher, are ideal for most warm-season ornamental grasses.
Western exposure in a protected spot or somewhere the cold won’t pocket is perfect for this plant in the cooler zones.
Add compost or high-quality organic plant food in the spring.
Propagating Zebra Grass
In order to spread the plant and keep it healthy, divide the clumps of grass every few years in the spring, either before or after the grass blooms.
Water should be used to flush the soil from the tangled mass of roots. This enables you to detect diseased or damaged roots.
Discard any sections of ornamental grass that have diseased roots before replanting.
While most gardeners would remove the stalks in the winter, some prefer to leave them standing for aesthetic purposes.
If you want to wait until late winter or early spring to clean up, you can do so because these plants add aesthetic value to winter scenes.
The dried stalks can be used as mulch to shield the plant’s roots from the cold of winter.
You can leave 5 or 6 inches of the stalks intact if you like and then cut off the excess length in the late winter or early spring.
Allowing the green shoots to emerge from that 5 or 6 inches of stubble will only make the clump look worse.
It won’t look great when it starts new growth in the spring. Waiting until late winter or early spring and then shearing the stalks down to ground level is a much simpler method.
Landscaping Uses for Zebra Grass
Growing zebra grass in the midst of other, shorter plants can create a focal point.
It’s a strong enough statement maker to be a centerpiece plant.
Use it as a screen by incorporating it into hedges. Its finely-toothed blades suggest pairing it with more fibrous plants for textural contrast.
One or more clumps of zebra grass against a wall or fence will improve the look of a cottage garden.
In order to create a display area with the most optimal visual interest for the time of year, some gardeners choose companion plants for zebra grass that also look their best between the months of August and October.
Some frequent candidates for the companion plant role are:
- Chrysanthemum flowers
- Hardy hibiscus
- New England aster
You need not worry about those pesky deer munching away at your zebra grass because it is one of the ornamental grasses that are resistant to deer.
Zebra Grass vs. Porcupine Grass
Comparable to the common tall ornamental grass known as porcupine grass (Miscanthus Sinensis ‘Strictus’), zebra grass is a sight to behold.
Because of their shared affinity for horizontal stripes, the two are remarkably similar in appearance.
In contrast to the porcupine’s upright posture, zebra grass tends to arch.
The difference between the two can be easily remembered by associating the name of the ‘Strictus’ cultivar with the idea of “standing strictly at attention.”
In terms of its arching habit, zebra grass can be both beneficial and problematic.
If you have an appreciation for finery, you will find this to be a graceful experience.
If you prefer to order, however, you might think it looks floppy and untidy and could use some staking.