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Gardening 101: Hakone Grass

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Gardening 101: Hakone Grass

November 16, 2020

Hakone Grass, Hakonechloa: “Japanese Forest Grass”

Think of it as Cousin Itt style for the garden. Low-growing clumps of Hakonechloa macra grass add floppy, shaggy style to a landscape.

Native to Japan’s Mount Hakone, hakone grass is happiest in rich, moist soil and part shade and is a good choice if you need a well-behaved ground cover, a low border, erosion control on a hillside, or a plant to spill over the side of a container.

Is hakone grass the right plant for your garden? Read on to find out.

London-based garden designer Charlotte Rowe used hardy lime green Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ as an accent beneath a climbing vine. See more in Before & After: A Jet Black Garden with White Jasmine Perfume.
Above: London-based garden designer Charlotte Rowe used hardy lime green Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ as an accent beneath a climbing vine. See more in Before & After: A Jet Black Garden with White Jasmine Perfume.

‘Aureola’, with variegated foliage and slender, long leaves, reflects light and can brighten a dark spot or focus attention on a quiet corner of the garden.

H. macra &#8\2\16;Alboaurea&#8\2\17;. Photograph by Cillas via Wikimedia.
Above: H. macra ‘Alboaurea’. Photograph by Cillas via Wikimedia.

Delicate leaves spill out of the center of a clump of hakone grass, which typically grows to heights of 16 to 26 inches.

Cheat Sheet

  • Not all hakone grass cultivars have chartreuse foliage: ‘Beni-Kaze’ (which means “red wind”) has green foliage that turns a purply red in autumn; ‘Nicolas’ has solid green leaves that turn to a fiery orange in fall, and ‘Albo-Striata’ is a variegated variety with white stripes.
  • With long, thin leaves that bring to mind the foliage of bamboo, hakone grass is a good choice for use in a Japanese-style garden.
  • Like most grasses, Hakonechloa ripples like waves in a breeze, adding motion and life to a garden.
Hakonechloa macra &#8\2\16;Aureola&#8\2\17;. Photograph by Megan Hansen via Flickr.
Above: Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’. Photograph by Megan Hansen via Flickr.

Keep It Alive

  • Hakone grass thrives as a perennial in USDA growing zones 5 to 9.
  • Deer-resistant and low-maintenance, hakone grass will require little beyond an evenly moist environment and well-drained soil.
  • Divide and transplant clumps in spring.
Clumps of Hakonechloa macra turn a tawny golden color that adds warmth in late December. Photograph by Clivid via Flickr.
Above: Clumps of Hakonechloa macra turn a tawny golden color that adds warmth in late December. Photograph by Clivid via Flickr.

Hakone grass dies back in late winter. See more at Gardening 101: How to Care for Perennial Grasses.

Read more growing tips in Hakone Grass: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design and browse our curated design guides to Perennial Grasses 101, including Miscanthus, Bamboo, Fescue, and Sedges. Also:

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