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How To Grow and Care for Zebra Grass?

Zebra grass

Zebra grass is a plant that’s as easy to care for as it is beautiful to look at.

With its striking stripes and tall stature, it’s sure to turn heads in any garden.

But did you know this grass is also drought-tolerant and resistant to most pests and diseases?

In this article, you will learn how to grow and care for zebra grass so that you can enjoy its beauty for years to come.

What Is Zebra Grass?

Zebra grass is a type of ornamental grass that has striking green and cream stripes on its leaves.

It belongs to the family Poaceae and the genus Miscanthus.

Its botanical name is Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus,’ which means Chinese silver grass with zebra-like markings.

Here are some notable characteristics of zebra grass:

  • It grows with an arching form and graceful plumes of silvery white flowers in late summer.
  • It prefers full sun and well-drained soil and can tolerate a range of soil pH and types.
  • It provides year-round interest and texture, with its variegated foliage turning golden in fall and beige in winter.
  • It can be used as a specimen plant, a backdrop for colorful flowers, a screen for privacy, or a focal point in a container.
Zebra Grass: Not As Innocent as It Looks

Zebra grass can be invasive in some regions, where it spreads by underground rhizomes and competes with native plants. It has been reported as invasive in some U.S. National Parks in North Carolina, Tennessee, Washington D.C., and Virginia.

Cultivars and Varieties of Zebra Grass

Zebra grass is one of the many cultivars of Miscanthus sinensis, which has over 200 varieties.

Some of the other popular cultivars include the following:

  • Adagio: A dwarf variety that grows 3 to 4 feet (0.9-1.2 m) tall and wide, with pinkish flowers and a bronze fall color.
  • Gracillimus: A graceful variety that grows 6 to 8 feet (1.8-2.4 m) tall and 3 to 5 feet (0.9-1.5 m) wide, with narrow leaves and coppery flowers.
  • Morning Light: A compact variety that grows 4 to 5 feet (1.2-1.5 m)) tall and wide, with fine leaves edged with white and pinkish flowers.
  • Purpurascens: A colorful variety that grows 4 to 5 feet (1.2-1.5 m) tall and wide, with green leaves that turn purple-red in fall and reddish flowers.

Growing Zebra Grass

Zebra grass
Source: Wikimedia

Now that you know why Zebra is a great choice for your garden, it’s time to grow it.

Zebra grass is not hard to care for and can adapt to different conditions.

You only need to follow these guidelines to grow it successfully.

Climate and Soil Requirements

Zebra grass can grow in zones 5 to 9, with temperatures ranging from -20°F to 90°F (-30-32°C).

It can tolerate various soil types as long as they are well-drained and have a neutral pH.

Zebra grass prefers moist soil but can also withstand drought once established.

Sun and Water Requirements

Zebra grass needs full sun to thrive and produce its best foliage color and flower plumes.

It can tolerate some shade but may become floppy or less variegated.

Zebra grass requires regular watering during the growing season, especially in hot and dry weather.

You can reduce watering in winter when the plant is dormant.

Propagation Methods

Zebra grass can be propagated by seeds or division:

  • Seeds can be sown in spring after the last frost or fall before the first frost. They need light to germinate, so do not cover them with soil.
  • Division can be done in spring or fall when the plant is not actively growing. Cut back the foliage to about 6 inches (15 cm) and dig up the clump. Divide it into smaller sections with a sharp knife or spade. Ensure sure each section has some roots and shoots. Replant the divisions at the same depth as they were before.

Planting Techniques

Zebra grass can be planted in spring or fall, depending on your climate and preference.

Follow these steps to grow it:

  1. Choose a location with full sun and well-drained soil.
  2. Dig a hole twice as wide and deep as the plant’s root ball.
  3. Loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole and add some compost or organic matter if needed. Place the plant in the hole and fill it with soil, firming it around the roots.
  4. Water thoroughly and mulch around the base of the plant to conserve moisture and prevent weeds.

Fertilization and Pruning

Zebra grass does not need much fertilization, but you can apply a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 in spring to boost its growth and flowering.

Pruning is unnecessary for zebra grass, but you can cut back the foliage to about 6 inches (15 cm) in late winter or early spring before new growth emerges.

This will help keep the plant tidy and healthy.

Caring for Zebra Grass

Zebra grass
Source: Wikimedia

Zebra Grass is not a demanding plant, but it does need some basic care to keep it healthy and attractive.

Here are some tips on caring for zebra grass.

Irrigation and Water Management

Zebra grass is like moist soil but is not soggy or waterlogged.

Water it two to three times a week during the first growing season, and then reduce watering once it is established.

Water deeply and let the soil dry slightly between waterings.

Zebra grass can tolerate drought but perform better with regular irrigation during hot and dry months.

Mulching and Weed Control

Zebra grass benefits from a layer of organic mulch around its base, such as compost, bark, or straw.

Mulch helps conserve soil moisture, prevent weeds, and enrich the soil.

Apply 2 to 3 inches (5-7.5 cm) of mulch in spring and replenish as needed.

Pull out any weeds competing with zebra grass for space, water, and nutrients.

Winter Care and Protection

Zebra grass dies back in winter, but you can leave the foliage and flower plumes for visual interest and wildlife shelter.

Alternatively, you can cut back the foliage to about 6 inches (15 cm) above the ground in late fall or early spring before new growth emerges.

This will help keep the plant tidy and healthy.

In colder zones, you may want to protect the plant from frost by covering it with a layer of straw or leaves.

Fertilization and Pruning

Zebra grass does not need much fertilization, but you can apply a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 in spring to boost its growth and flowering.

Pruning is not necessary for zebra grass, but you can trim any damaged or diseased foliage as it occurs.

You can also divide zebra grass every few years in spring or fall to rejuvenate it and prevent overcrowding.

How Tall Does Zebra Grass Get?

Zebra grass can grow up to 7 feet (2.1 m) tall and 5 feet (1.5 m) wide, with an arching form and graceful plumes of silvery white flowers in late summer.

The foliage reaches about 5 feet (1.5 m) tall, while the flower stalks can extend 2 feet (0.6 m) above the leaves.

The plant has a clumping habit and spreads by underground rhizomes.

Examples of tall varieties are Silberfeder, Giganteus, and Cabaret.

Possible Problems with Zebra Grass

Zebra grass is a resilient plant that can resist most pests and diseases.

However, it may still encounter problems affecting its health and appearance.

Here are some of its common problems and how to deal with them.

Common Pests and Diseases Of Zebra Grass

Zebra Grass may get some foliar rusts or small leaf damage from chewing insects, such as ants, crickets, grasshoppers, cockroaches, and earwigs.

These pests can be controlled by spraying the plant with insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Zebra grass may also get fungal diseases, such as powdery mildew, rust, and leaf spot.

These diseases can cause the leaves and stem to become discolored, distorted, or wilted.

They can be prevented by providing good air circulation and full sun and removing infected plant parts.

Environmental Stressors and How To Mitigate Them

Zebra grass can also suffer from environmental stressors like drought, frost, wind, or poor soil.

These stressors can cause the plant to become weak, stunted, or discolored.

To mitigate these stressors, you can:

  • Water your zebra grass regularly during dry periods, but avoid overwatering or waterlogging.
  • Protect your zebra grass from frost by covering it with a layer of straw or leaves in winter.
  • Stake your zebra grass or provide a support structure to prevent it from flopping over in strong winds.
  • Amend your soil with compost or organic matter to improve drainage and fertility.

Conclusion

Zebra grass is a stunning plant that can transform your garden into a vibrant and elegant oasis.

Its long and arching leaves are adorned with horizontal bands of yellow that contrast with the green background.

You can plant Zebra grass as a specimen, a hedge, a screen, or a container plant.

Give planting it a try and enjoy its four seasons of interest and texture. 

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