Zebra grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’) is native to Japan and one of the Miscanthus maiden grass cultivars, all of which are used as ornamental grasses. Zebra grass plants die back in winter, but are perennial and re-sprout in spring. The grasses provide four seasons of interest with young spring variegated striped foliage, summer copper colored inflorescence, fall golden leaves, and winter texture and form. Zebra ornamental grass can get up to 6 feet (2 m.) high, and produces a spectacular screen or specimen plant.
Characteristics of Zebra Grass Plants
There are few showier plants for the garden. Zebra ornamental plants have long arching leaves with appealing stripes across the width, like dappled foliage in the sun. The plant is perennial but the foliage dies off in cold weather, leaving an architecturally interesting skeleton. It produces brand new deep green leaves in spring that begin to show more and more golden striping as the leaf matures.
The plants are hardy to USDA plant hardiness zones 4 to 9. Choose a sunny to partially sunny location when growing zebra grass. Its clumping habit makes it perfect when planted in groups as a hedge or alone in a container.
Site Conditions for Growing Zebra Grass
Hot sunny summers help the plant form copper colored, feathery inflorescences in September. The plant then produces fluffy seeds, which provide airy distraction to the late fall foliage. This grass produces best in moist soils or even boggy riparian edges but established grasses can tolerate short periods of drought.
USDA zones 5 to 9 are ideal for zebra grass planting. Work in compost or leaf litter to a depth of at least 6 inches (15 cm.) prior to installing the plant. Space the plants 36 to 48 inches (91 cm. to 1 m.) apart and install in spring when the plant is mostly dormant.
In the cooler zones, choose a place on the western side of the house in a sheltered area or where cold doesn’t pocket.
How to Care for Zebra Grass
Zebra grass plants are resistant to most pests and diseases. They may get some foliar rusts or small leaf damage from chewing insects, but for the most part the plant is quite strong and hardy.
Provide a full sun environment and plenty of water for best growth. The plants work well in containers, but will need more water than those in the garden bed.
Fertilize in spring with a good organic plant food. Cut back the inflorescences in either fall or spring. If you like the look of the dry feathery flowers, leave them until spring. If not, cut them back to within a few inches (8 cm.) of the crown of the plant in fall. Remove any damaged foliage as it occurs.
If the plant is in too much shade, the leaf blades can get floppy, but you can provide a stake or even a tomato cage to help prop them upright.