Easy Care Hakonechloa Grasses


This grass' mounding habit makes it a perfect specimen for front of the border and helps to hide the "bare knees" of plants like monarda that tend to lose their lower leaves by mid season. Use it to soften walkways, wall edges and transitions from garden bed to lawn.

As the season progresses, clumps gradually expand and blade height increases. Fall plumes are absolutely spectacular and can persist indoors in a vase with other late bloomers.

While still somewhat unusual and unlikely to be found at the big box stores, varieties of Hakonechloa are becoming more readily available at wholesale and finer retail nurseries. Specimens can be pricey, but they spread relatively quickly and lend themselves to division and sharing with friends.

Unlike other clumping ornamental grasses that need a sledgehammer to divide, Hakone can be thinned with relative ease.

Yes, it's only February and we just received 5" of snow, burying the garden beds once again...but thoughts are turning to spring and to garden design! You may have colorful blooms in mind, but there are other ways to introduce color to our gardens!

Ornamental grasses are one of my favorite plants, offering texture, color and 4 season interest to the residential garden. Easy care grasses reduce the effort and maintenance that floriferous perennial gardens can bring, yet still contribute significant visual impact to the landscape.

One of the easiest and most satisfying species to grow is Hakonechloa, aka Japanese forest grass. Unlike more common, upright varieties of ornamental grass, Hakonechloa's growth habit is gracefully downward arching. 

Fresh Hakone grass shoots appear in early spring, which means end of April for our zone 5b. Unlike other ornamentals (fountain grasses come to mind), Hakonechloa breaks through newly thawed soil early and mounds up quickly. 

Most Hakonechloa varieties prefer light shade. The exception is 'All Gold', which is shown here from early May to early December in my East facing bed that receives full sun up to 1:00 p.m. then falls into total shade for the remainder of the day. Click the right and left arrows to view the seasonal growth and progression in the landscape.

Hakonechloa grass 'All Gold':

  • is a "no care" plant that spreads relatively quickly
  • can easily be thinned in the spring and propagated throughout the perennial garden
  • has low-water needs, making it a plant worth serious consideration for water-wise gardening
  • produces beautiful panicles in late summer that look lovely when cut and added to fresh flower arrangements
  • retains its limey green tinge until early Fall, when it develops a deeper green color, and finally dries to a lovely tan
  • provides nesting materials to our local song birds
  • has no serious disease or insect problems