Saturday, May 4, 2013

Grass plant Miscanthus transmorrisonensis aka evergreen feather grass

A quick post today on one of my favorite grass plants Miscanthus transmorrisonensis or Evergreen feather grass. This type of Miscanthus is one of the most popular as it holds flower heads from summer through to late winter. Miscanthus transmorrisonensus was introduced from Taiwan by Paul Meyer of the Morris Arboretum and C. Ferris Miller of Chollipo Arboretum. The seed was collected from wild plants found at nearly ten thousand feet in elevation on the slops of Mt. Daxue of Sichuan province in Southwest China.
Miscanthus plants are native to China and Japan. They go by the common names Chinese silvergrass, Suzuki grass, Porcupine grass and Maiden grass. They are a great plant to use for providing the often forgotten element of movement in your garden as the flower heads sway around in the breeze when the wind picks up. They are sometimes recommended as a plant for prarie style gardens. They also look stunning with the sun shining behind the flower heads. They can be propagated by division. They respond well after transplanting and you don't have to be overly careful after pulling them up. Digging the plant out of the ground is the hardest part. They have a dense fibrous root system that needs to be dug around and under to lift the plant.  I would describe their water usage as low / medium once established.

When I first started working in the Parkville garden where I currently am employed, we dug up a mature Miscanthus transmorrisonensis plant and divided it into about 8 clumps. What you see in the pictures below is 6 of those clumps approximately 1 year after planting them. They are about 1.2 metres tall.

Here it is in all its glory. Honestly it looks significantly better in real life when it is swaying around in the wind with the sun shining on it.

Closeup of the beautiful plumes of this plant. Only a really bright day the sun almost makes the plumes look like they are illuminating light.


  1. I'm assuming as this is evergreen, that you don't have to cut them back like other clumping grasses. Is that right?

    1. Well you don't need to cut them back if you don't want to. I usually do cut mine back in winter because I think these plants look better when young (with new growth). Also they can get quite large so you may want to cut them back if you are concerned about the size.

  2. Alex, I'm thinking about planting this on the edge of a very hot concrete courtyard facing west. It's about thirty feet off the ground so the wind is pretty strong - almost coastal conditions,but in Moorabbin with no irrigation. I don't want to be watering too often. Do you think it's tough enough for this site? If not, can you suggest something else? It won't be all grasses - but I would like a biggish, showy one as a feature.

  3. It is a fairly drought and wind tolerant plant so I'm guessing it would work in the environment you have described. I have planted some right on the edge of a path of concrete pavers (with a north facing aspect) and it worked great. That particular location had a bit of wind tunneling too. They would benefit from a bit of extra water every now and then especially during the warmest parts of the year.