Zebra Grass belongs to the family of Poaceae, a large family of grasses. This ornamental grass is native to eastern Asia, especially Japan, China, Taiwan, and Korea. The botanical name of zebra grass is Miscanthus Sinensis ’Zebrinus’ and comes from the Greek “mischos,” which means “stalk,” and the Greek word “anthos” which means “flower.” Zebra Grass is also known as Chinese Silver Grass‘ Zebrinus”, Japanese Silver Grass “Zebrinus,” and Zebra-Striped Grass. This plant got its name thanks to its resemblance to the zebra print. Horizontal cream bands decorate its green foliage. 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.
The leaves are entire, slender, and dark green. They have irregular yellowish horizontal bands that resemble zebra stripes and give the grass its name. The horizontal bands first appear during the vegetation period. Zebra grass delights with brownish golden foliage in fall. The flowers are tiny and white, appearing in late summer. They are followed by silvery seed heads in the fall. Zebra grass dies in winter, but since it is a perennial, it sprouts again as spring starts to settle in. Zebra grass has a moderate to fast growth rate and can be planted in spring or fall. Zebra grass is the perfect foil for more colourful plants. Grow it as a specimen plant at the back of a floral border to contrast with brightly coloured blooms.
Table of Contents
4 - 7 feet
3 - 6 feet
5.5 - 8.0
Planting Zebra Grass
Planting Zebra Grass in your outdoor space is just as easy as caring for this ornamental grass. You only have to consider the plant’s main growing requirements when planting it in your garden.
As a general rule, it is recommended to plant Zebra Grass in spring or fall. Yet, if you live in an area with early or severe winter seasons, we recommend planting this ornamental grass in spring to provide the plant with enough time to develop before its first season.
Besides that, you should also consider the plant’s light needs. Remember to choose the sunniest spot in your garden and plant the Zebra Grass there.Also, avoid planting your ornamental grass in an area of your outdoor space that experiences standing water frequently because this may cause the roots to rot.
Considering the plant’s size when reaching maturity, remember to choose a spot of your garden where it has enough room to develop and grow its arching mound of foliage.
Zebra Grass Care
Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus' is a good option for low-maintenance landscaping and is tolerant of a variety of soil conditions. This is a large ornamental grass, attaining a mature height of up to 7 feet (measuring to the top of the plume; foliage will reach about 5 feet tall) with a spread of 3 to 6 feet. It can spread easily by rhizomes and can fill in areas quickly, so space them about 3 to 4 feet apart when planting. They are very easy to care for, as zebra plants are not only drought-resistant plants requiring very little water but are also resistant to most pests and diseases.
Provide full sun for optimal growth. 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.
Zebra grass prefers a soil pH that is roughly neutral. This grass produces best in moist soils or even boggy riparian edges.
Young zebra grass needs regular watering to get established, but a mature specimen will serve as a drought-tolerant ornamental grass.
Temperature and Humidity
Most warm-season ornamental grasses thrive with warmer soil temperatures at about 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and air temperatures even a little hotter. In the cooler zones, give this plant a western exposure in a sheltered area or where cold does not pocket.
Fertilize with compost or good organic plant food in spring.
Pruning and Propagating Zebra Grass
Some gardeners like to leave the stalks in place during winter rather than cutting them. In this case, pruning can wait till late winter or early spring because these plants offer value for winter scenes. The dead stalks also act as a bit of mulch to protect the root system from winter's chilling temperatures.
If you prefer to cut the stalks early, leave 5 or 6 inches sticking up, then trim off that remaining 5 or 6 inches in late winter or early spring. The clump will not look its best in early spring anyway when it first starts to put out new growth, and if you allow the green shoots to come out of that 5 or 6 inches of stubble, the overall appearance will be even less inspiring. A much simpler approach is to wait until late winter or early spring and then shear the stalks right down to ground level.
Propagating Zebra Grass
To propagate or revitalize the plant, you can divide it in the spring every few years right before or right after the grass blooms, or divide the grass clumps when the plant breaks dormancy. Keep in mind that it's best to prune the zebra grass before propagating. Here's how:
Select a healthy plant and dig it up with a pointed shovel.
Turn the plant on its side so you can see the roots.
Rinse the tangled mass of roots with water to remove the soil. This allows you to see any damaged roots or those that may be diseased.
Split the plant (in half or even thirds, depending on the size of the clump) by cutting through it with the pointed tip of the shovel.
Cut off any bad roots with gardening shears.
Replant the ornamental grass sections in the desired appropriate place and water.
Potting and Repotting Zebra Grass
Zebra grass can be grown in a container making for a nice display on any patio. It will need a bit more watering since it is contained in a pot and should be fertilized during the spring. Plant it in a large container with drainage holes, using potting soil and then water. Just realize that it will fill up the container within one season and will need to be divided.
Let those brownish-colored stalks of your ornamental grass stay until early spring and then prune them down. Not only do they provide somewhat of a display in the garden, but the stalks help to protect the root ball from the cold.
Pests and Diseases
Zebra grass is resistant to most pests and diseases that usually bother other garden plants. The risk of this ornamental grass is exposed to getting some foliar rust or minor leaf damage from chewing insects like ants, crickets, grasshoppers, cockroaches, and earwigs.
Zebra grass, like most ornamental grasses, need good air circulation and full sun to help keep it from getting fungus, including powdery mildew or leaf blight. With proper care and maintenance, any fungal diseases can be prevented. This makes zebra grass a popular landscaping plant for any flower bed. Zebra grass is deer and rabbit resistant.
You can make zebra grass a focal point by growing it in the middle of shorter plants. It makes a sufficiently bold statement to serve as a specimen plant. Alternatively, exploit its screening ability by planting it in hedges. The fine texture of its blades suggests using it in combination with coarser plants to create a contrast. A cottage garden will be enhanced by one or more clumps of zebra grass up against a wall or fence.
Since zebra grass is at its best in late summer and in fall, some gardeners like to choose companion plants for it that also look their best during the August-October period, so as to create a display area with optimal visual interest for that time of year. Examples of companion plants include:
New England aster
Zebra grass is one of the deer-resistant ornamental grasses, so you do not have to worry about deer pests coming in and eating it.