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What Is Zebra Grass?

Deneatra Harmon
Deneatra Harmon

Zebra grass, also known by its scientific name Miscanthus sinensis zebrinus, is an ornamental grass of different cultivars that produces clumps of slender leaves upon propagation during the spring season. Zebra ornamental grass grows best in USDA zones 4 through 9. The herbaceous perennial works well for various landscaping options.

The Miscanthus zebrinus comes from the Gramineae, sometimes referred to as Poaceae, family of herbaceous ornamentals. Related plants in this group include wheat, sugarcane, and bamboo. Besides Miscanthus zebrinus, some other zebra grass cultivars include Purpurescens, Silver Feather, and Condensatus. Other common names for the grass plant include banded miscanthus and Japanese silver grass.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Features of zebra ornamental grass vary depending on the cultivar. The Miscanthus zebrinus bears green grass-like leaves with splashes of yellow, as well as pink flowers. The Purpurescens variety displays pink and silver blooms in addition to purple-red leaves. The Silver Feather sprouts white and silver flowers, while the Condensatus zebra grass shows larger, coarser leaves than the other cultivars. The leaves of most of these grasses grow upright and droop, resembling water fountains.

Zebra grass grows pretty much anywhere around the world, given the right weather and climate conditions. The grass must withstand seed planting in USDA zones 4 through 9, which means the average temperature must range from -30° F (-31.7° C) to 30° F (-3.8° C). Warm, sunny locations often help the Japanese silver grass develop into clusters of lush green foliage by the spring season, followed by blooms that usually appear during the summer. Zebra grass also survives in well-drained soils, but it can tolerate some dryness. On average, zebra grass grows out to approximately 10 feet (3 m) wide and up to 7 feet (approximately 2 m) tall.

Some gardeners may employ Japanese silver grass, or zebra grass, for several landscaping options because of its shapely appearance. In addition to accenting a flower garden, the zebra grass may be used in mass plantings in larger landscapes such as parks or commercial property. The flowing ornamental grass may also be planted as screening or fencing around a front or backyard for privacy. Gardeners and landscapers must maintain and clean the area of the perennial frequently because wind can easily blow around the plant's foliage. A slight trimming of the plant itself may also be required because the Miscanthus is known for an aggressive, spreading growth habit.

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