Very, very tall hardy grass--what is it?

sprucemanNovember 19, 2006

In on the top of a windy hill outside Romney WV in a very exposed site next to a Burger King restaurant is a very tall grass that has been growing there for many years. The tan colored (in late fall and winter)plumes must be just about 14 feet tall (a careful estimate). I have heard that Pampas grass is hardy to only Z7, but this is 6A, and a harsh 6A at that. I have seen "hardy" Pampas grass advertized. Could this be a kind of hardy Pampas grass or something else? If something else, what could it be? I think this is a gorgeous plant and want one or two.


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It's probably Ravenna Grass, AKA Saccharum ravennae, which used to be called Erianthus ravennae. One of it's common names is Hardy Pampas Grass.

It could be Giant Chinese Silver Grass, AKA Miscanthus giganteus. This is less likely.

It could be Giant Reed, AKA Arundo donax. Also less likely.

Take a picture, and we can ID it more easily.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2006 at 8:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


Thanks! I am not up to speed with digital pictures yet.

But if there are these three possibilities, maybe you can give me your opinion about each--the pros and cons, so to speak.

My wife and I like this grass we see in Romney because it is so tall and blows in the wind so nicely. We live in a very windy spot (way too much wind!) but given we have the wind, we like to enjoy the visual effects of its blowing and tall ornamental grasses are one way to do that.

Any recommendation you can make will much appreciated.


    Bookmark   November 21, 2006 at 10:50AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Miscanthus giganteus is hardy to zone 4. It can grow to 14' with stalks up to 2" thick. It has 8-12" flowers in late summer. Most of the leaves fall off as winter comes, leaving a skeleton of bare stalks. If it has a downside, it is that it tends to lose it's lower leaves by the time it flowers. You can plant something else in front of it if you don't like the look.

Saccharum ravennae is unique. It's foliage grows to 5' in a nice clump, then it's flower stalks shoot up another 8-12' above the foliage. It also flowers in late summer, and is rated hardy to zone 6, although there are many examples of it being grown successfully in much colder zones.

Arundo donax is also rated to zone 6, and is also grown successfully in colder zones. In perfect conditions, this monster can reach 25' tall and looks like a grove of bamboo. There are also lovely variegated cultivars, which tend to top out at 10-12' in height. In colder climates, it probably won't flower.

All three of these grasses require a sizable garden, because of their immense proportions. I'm just starting to experiment with Saccharum ravennae, which I started from seed this year. My garden is small, so it will be difficult to site properly, and may not fit in.

I also live in a windy area, right on the water, and am growing a number of grasses just for their interplay with the wind. There are hundreds of shorter grasses, in the 2-8' range (to the plumes) which fit the normal sized garden better than the huge grasses.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2006 at 1:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


Thanks. I think the Ravenna grass will be our first choice, but the others you describe seem very interesting.

We have a couple of medium tall grasses already--one is, if I remember right, a miscanthus called "caberet grass." We bought it thinking it was something else--it was in a row at a nursery that was mislabeled, but when we planted it we found the right tag in the pot. The other we got from a neighbor and I don't know what it is. It has struggled to get established, being a little piece cut off their clump. It has not grown very tall yet, but I think theirs is about 8' tall. It may be another miscanthus variety.

Space is no problem for us--we have 8 acres here in Winchester. VA. The bigger the better!!

I have done a quick web search on Arundo Donax and Miscanthus, and it seems that they are listed as invasive species. Do you know anything about this problem? I found one mention of Ravenna grass as invasive, but it does not seem to be a real problem. Where I am in an open farming area I would not want to be the source of some kind of plant plague, which we have our fill of already.

Do you have any preferred mail order source for your grasses?


    Bookmark   November 21, 2006 at 8:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You probably are seeing Arundo donax because it is rarer and a more unique sight that caught you eye and interest. Looks like a dramatic monster alien corn-like plant 10-15' high. Can grow vertically really, really fast... spreads in a clump thru rhizomes like a weed but could be controlled with some work. Likes water but very hardy. In the south it is considered a major pest, but should be fine in 6A. I find it fascinating so far, but grows very quickly. Falls apart in winter.

Ravenna grass is common as an ornamental in Ohio. The grass is rather drab but the tall plumes are very attractive in the fall and thruout the winter, providing interest all winter. Not invasive here.

Miscanthus giganteus is not invasive because it is a sterile hybrid, spreads thru rhizomes and eventually makes a huge clump. Most Miscanthus are not invasive, many are cool.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2006 at 9:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I won't enter the fray over M. giganteus, because I haven't grown it, but I don't think it's sterile. Greenlee says it can be grown from seed, and Darke says it seldom self-sows. I've read may accounts of growing it from seed.

That said, it isn't likely to produce viable seed in the colder zones, so invasiveness would be limited to rhizome spread. Here again, Greenlee and Darke disagree on it's expansion rate.

It's a beautiful grass, and well worth experimenting with it if you have the space (and it sounds like you do!).

    Bookmark   November 22, 2006 at 7:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I know Arundo Donax very well because it is a VERY widespread native grass in the part of Italy where I live. It is also commonly grown in farms and in large vegetable gardens to use its dead reeds as plants and vegetables supports and as fences building material.

I would not call AD "invasive" but "constantly grower". In fact it doesn't produce zillions of seedlings like other invasive plants do, but - like bamboo- it NEVER stops spreading itself through underground rhizomes. In perfect growing confitions it could turn into a real forest in a few years!

However it is quite easy to take it under control by eradicating the new sprouted rhizomes. I'm also sure that the cold of zone 6 (here we're in zone 9) will reduce its growing habit.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2006 at 9:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The reason I said the M. giganteus was a sterile plant was from a couple of articles I saw about growing M. giganteus commercially for bio-fuel, which claimed that M. giganteus was chosen because it was non-invasive and safe... I dunno... sorry to spread disinformation. Maybe they are talking about similar but different plants? M. giganteus' origin is somewhat a mystery in any event, science classification wise...

    Bookmark   November 22, 2006 at 7:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

2005-started quartpot of arundo donax along a stream. Hit 14ft first year. Clump is a couple feet wide now.

2006-started quartpot of Miscanthus giganteus. Hit 2ft tall.

2006-started seed of Saccharum ravennae. Foliage is 3.5 ft tall with a plume 6ft high.

Just some things I noticed with my limited experience.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2006 at 8:58PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Blue Dune Lyme Grass Seeds
Hi, I was wondering if anyone knew a supplier for Blue...
Miscanthus blight?
A few months ago I got some Miscanthis Hinjo at Lowes...
Splitting my Maiden Grass
I plan on splitting my grass in the spring. When is...
Miscanthus sinensis Advice
Hello, I want to plant some Miscanthus grass on the...
have: variegated "peppermint stick" giant reed grass / arundo do
I have many rhizomes I can trade. This one seems to...
Sponsored Products
Canto Satin Nickel Three-Light Bath Fixture with Opal Matte Glass
$391.50 | Bellacor
Home Decorators Indoor/Outdoor Area Rug: Home Decorators Collection Rugs Melody
Home Depot
Henri Studio Nebbia Petals Tall Patio Bubbler Fountain
Lamps Plus
Chooty and Co Tea House Black-Wisdom D-Fiber Pillow - CS19K336
$47.99 | Hayneedle
Modern Style Fabric Floor Lamp with Pole & Base in Dark Brown
Picolo 8-light Linear Pendant
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™