Miscanthus purpurascens (Flame Grass)

My kids are pulling together all of their school supplies.

They’re also panicking with the current status of their summer reading assignments.

There are exhibition NFL games playing on TV.

Grocery stores are peddling all of their overrated pumpkin products.

Horrific TV shows are being pimped by the big networks.

Fall is coming and there’s nothing we can do about it.

I’m the biggest fan of summer there is and I’m in no rush to wish it away, but the reality is once September 1st arrives and the kids are hopping on and off of the bus each day, autumn has arrived.¬†Summer gets ripped off by almost a month and I hate it.

End of rant.

From a “glass hall full perspective”, my garden may look its best in the fall. And that is all because of my large collection of ornamental grasses. Most OG’s reach their peak in September and October as their mix of stunning foliage color and uniquely colored blooms announce their presence with a fluorish.

If you ask me which grass in my garden stands out more than any other, I’d choose Miscanthus Purpurascens or Flame Grass.

Miscanthus purpurascens

The photo above doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story. From August through November it puts on one mother of a show.

Here it is current day, with its bright green foliage just starting to show hints of yellow and orange (ignore the blooms in the pic, those are from Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’ in the background).

Miscanthus purpurascens

 

I have a bunch of these grasses all over my garden. Most in full sun, but a few in partial shade and they’ve all been thriving for years now. In the photo below (middle of the bed and to the right), you can see how that bright green plays well in a mixed bed with other grasses, shrubs and perennials.

 

The blooms start to emerge anywhere from mid-August to early September here in zone 6B New Jersey. They start off red-tinged and quickly transform to a bright white.

Miscanthus purpurascens

At that same time, you can see how the foliage color really transforms into a delicious mix of green/orange/yellow.

I like to play off of the Miscanthus Purpurascens blooms with the blooms of other grasses like Miscanthus ‘Gracillimus’ below.

 

Or with Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’.

 

When this grass is backlit by the sun, it’s magical.

Miscanthus purpurascens

 

I’ve also come to appreciate how the flowers provide a very cool backdrop to the spent blooms of the Bee Balm or Coneflowers.

 

Did I mention the Miscanthus Purpurascens foliage is kind of killer?

Miscanthus purpurascens

 

Even as the late summer/fall progresses, the foliage remains stellar, eventually changing to all orange/tan.

Miscanthus purpurascens

 

One foggy and mystical-like morning last October, I took the following three photos. This alone made it worth adding Miscanthus Purpurascens to my garden.

 

 

I know. I won’t even try to be humble here. Those pics are amazing and I’m amazing for taking them.

Even as we move into the dark days of November, Flame Grass still makes a big impact in the garden with the blooms persevering and providing a fantastic contrast to all of the “brown” that has taken over.

Miscanthus purpurascens

The specifics:

SIZE: 4-5′ x 3-4′

ZONE: 4-9

EXPOSURE: Full sun to partial shade

BLOOM: August to November

SOIL: Consistent moisture required

GRASS TYPE: Warm season

NATIVE: Japan

MAINTENANCE: Cut to ground in late winter or early spring as with most ornamental grasses.

DRAWBACKS:

  1. Miscanthus sinensis, in general, is identified as invasive in many states. I’ve had no issues with rampant self-seeding to date.
  2. This Miscanthus is clump forming so there may be a need to keep it in bounds through division every few years.

 

 

 

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