Story and Photos by Hubert P. Conlon
Brighten up dark areas in your woodland garden with Japanese forest grass, sometimes called hakone grass. This warm-season ornamental grass performs well in most areas of Tennessee; it may struggle a bit in the warmer regions.
Start by planting in amended, compost-rich soil in full to partial shade. Hakone grass grows slowly the first year or two, but a little patience definitely pays off.
Hakone grass is treasured for its colorful foliage and low – 1½-2 feet – mounding habit. The long narrow leaf blades cascade like a waterfall over rocks, low walls, or the edges of containers.
Hakone grass spreads slowly via underground rhizomes. It is rarely bothered by any serious disease or pest problems. Occasionally, the foliage may scorch or spot during hot humid spells. Supply cooling irrigation during stressful periods.
Quick Facts and Keys to Success
Common Name: Hakone grass or Japanese forest grass
Botanical Name: Hakonechloa macra
Varieties/Cultivars: ‘Aureola’ – tapered, green-and-gold streaked foliage, grows 2 feet tall, named Perennial Plant of the Year in 2009; ‘All Gold’ – As its name implies, this forms a dwarf mound of vibrant golden yellow foliage 2 feet high and wide; ‘Fubuki’ – Slow growing (14 x 18 inches) mound with slender green and creamy white foliage; takes on pinkish tones in autumn; the species (H. macra) is a faster growing green-leafed form that is often overlooked; it tolerates a tad bit more sun and drier soils.
Size: 12-24 inches tall, 18-24 inches wide, depending on cultivar
Type: Perennial ornamental grass for shaded areas
Foliage: Fine-textured, green or variegated
Flowering: Inconspicuous inflorescence in midsummer
Exposure: Prefers partial to full shade
When to Plant: Spring through midsummer –allows plants time to establish root systems before onset of winter.
Soil: Humus-rich, moist, well-drained, slightly acidic
Water: Irrigate during dry spells; only modestly drought tolerant after its first year; organic mulch is a plus.
When to Prune: In late winter – clip back (mow) last year’s clumps down to within a few inches of the ground.
When To Fertilize: Lightly in spring with granular 10-10-10 or equivalent or water-soluble fertilizer two or three times over the course of the growing season.
In the Landscape: This long-lived, slow-growing grassy ground cover is the perfect edging plant to perk up drab corners of garden beds, rockeries, and containers.