This deciduous grass, with medium-green arching blades, is a natural choice for a Japanese garden. (Richie Steffen)

This deciduous grass, with medium-green arching blades, is a natural choice for a Japanese garden. (Richie Steffen)

Great Plant Pick: Hakonechloa macra, Japanese forest grass

This deciduous grass, with medium-green arching blades, is a natural choice for a Japanese garden.

What: Hakonechloa macra, also known as Japanese forest grass, is an understated and underused aristocrat in the shade garden. This deciduous grass forms airy mounds of medium-green arching blades. It is slightly taller and more upright than other Japanese forest grasses, reaching a little over 2 feet in height. The true asset of the grass is the textural effect in the landscape. Rippling gently in the slightest breeze, the motion created by Japanese forest grass brings the garden alive. Its light texture makes it a good container plant, as it contrasts with other more rigid plants. Use Hakonechloa macra as a solid ground cover under small trees or under large shrubs. It also looks good with bold-foliage plants such as bergenias, podophyllums and hostas, and it works as a nice contrast with ferns. It is a natural choice for Japanese gardens.

Where: Plant this Japanese forest grass in well-drained soil with full sun to dappled shade, avoiding hot afternoon sun.

Size: This perennial can grow to be 2 feet tall and can spread to 4 feet wide.

Care: Provide regular watering during dry weather to keep the grass looking lush and full. It can be divided in winter to early spring before the new foliage starts to emerge. Its fall color is a pleasant straw tone; once it browns it can be cut to the ground.

— Richie Steffen, Great Plant Picks

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