Japanese forest grass all gold

Golden Japanese Forest Grass – How To Grow Japanese Forest Grass Plant

Japanese forest grass plant is an elegant member of the Hakonechloa family. These ornamental plants are slow growing and require little extra care once established. The plants are semi-evergreen (depending on where you live, and may die back over winter) and show best in a partially shaded location. There are several different colors of Japanese forest grass plants. Choose a color that enlivens the surrounding landscape when you are growing forest grass.

Japanese Forest Grass Plant

Japanese forest grass is an attractive, graceful plant that grows slowly and is not invasive. The grass gets 18 to 24 inches tall and has an arching habit with long flat, foliar blades. These arching blades sweep from the base and gracefully re-touch the earth. Japanese forest grass comes in several hues and may be solid or striped. Most varieties are variegated and have stripes. The variegation is white or yellow.

Golden Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra) is one of the more popular types and is a completely sunny, bright yellow variety. The golden Japanese forest grass is best planted in full shade. Sunlight will fade the yellow leaf blades to a white. The leaves get a pink tinge to the edges as fall arrives, increasing the appeal of this easy to grow plant. The following cultivars of golden Japanese forest grass are most commonly grown in the garden:

  • ‘All Gold’ is a sunny golden Japanese forest grass that brightens up dark areas of the garden.
  • ‘Aureola’ has green and yellow blades.
  • ‘Albo Striata’ is striped with white.

Growing Forest Grass

Japanese forest grass plant is suitable for USDA zones 5 to 9. It can survive in zone 4 with heavy protection and mulching. The grass grows from stolens and rhizomes, which will cause it to slowly spread over time.

The plant thrives in moist soils in low light situations. The blades become slightly narrower at the ends and the tips may become dry or brown when exposed to bright light. For best results, plant it in moderate to full shade in a well-drained area with nutrient rich soil.

Caring for Japanese Forest Grasses

Caring for Japanese forest grasses is not a very time consuming chore. Once planted, Japanese forest grass is an easy to care for ornamental. The grass should be kept evenly moist, but not soggy. Spread an organic mulch around the base of the plant to help conserve moisture.

Hakonechloa doesn’t need supplemental fertilizing in good soils but if you do fertilize, wait until after the first blush of growth in spring.

When sun hits the blades, they tend to brown. For those planted in sunnier areas, cut off the dead ends as needed to improve the appearance of the plant. In winter, cut back spent blades to the crown.

Older plants can be dug up and cut in half for quick propagation. Once the grass matures, it is easy to divide and propagate a new Japanese forest grass plant. Divide in spring or fall for the best plant starts.

This grass dies back to below ground level each year in autumn, then fresh new growth appears again in spring.

  • Position: full sun or partial shade
  • Soil: moist but well-drained soil
  • Rate of growth: average
  • Flowering period: August – September
  • Hardiness: fully hardy
    An eye-catching small ornamental grass, which forms cascading hummocks of vividly striped bright yellow and green foliage.The narrow leaves keep their colour throughout the season, and often when the plant is grown in full sun it develops a reddish tinge. In late summer and autumn, pale green, slender, flower spikelets appear, giving a billowing lightness to planted drifts. It is useful as a simple understorey to light shrubs and as a soft edging to paths or steps. The clean, minimalist style of this grass makes it a good choice for formal courtyards or in minimalist urban planters.
  • Garden care: Incorporate lots of well-rotted garden compost into the planting hole. Leave flower heads to dry out through the winter, adding valuable texture to plantings. Apply a light mulch (3cm) of well-rotted garden compost after cutting back old foliage and before new growth emerges in spring.

Japanese forest grass

Size and Form

Japanese forest grass is relatively low-growing (1 to 2 feet tall), with arching leaves that provide a sweeping appearance as though the plants were flowing. The plant will spread by rhizomes, but very slowly. It can be used as a ground cover for this reason.

Plant Care

Best growth is in a cool, partly shaded site. Soil should be moist, but also well-drained.

This is a warm season grass, so its most active growth occurs in summer. It will remain standing in winter and can act as winter interest
Since this grass remains attractive through winter, it should not be cut back until early spring, before new growth begins. At that time, it can be cut down to the ground.

Disease, pests, and problems

No serious pest problems.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to Japan. Found in cool mountain habitats.

Leaf description

Leaves are 3 to 6 inches long and 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide. Leaves of the species are bright green and have a bamboo-like appearance. There are cultivars with variegated foliage. Leaves will dry to brown for winter.

Flower description

The tiny flowers are held on light, airy clusters that are not very showy. Flowering time is late summer

Fruit description

The small fruit (caryopsis or grains) form along the open clusters that held the flowers.

Cultivars and their differences

All Gold (Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’): A more compact cultivar (12 to 15 inches), with golden leaves.

Aureola (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’): Leaves are yellow and green striped. Foliage is more likely to burn in hot sun.

Beni-Kaze (Hakonechloa macra ‘Beni-Kaze’): Green leaves turn to red in fall.

Fubuki (Hakonechloa macra ‘Fubuki’): Green and white striped foliage that develops orange tones in fall. 14 inches tall.

Naomi (Hakonechloa macra ‘Naomi’): Foliage is yellow and green striped in summer. Develops red-purple shades in all.

Nicholas (Hakonechloa macra ‘Nicholas’): Green leaves in summer. Develops good orange and red color in fall. 8 to 16 inches tall.

Stripe It Rich (Hakonechloa macra ‘Stripe It Rich’): Gold and white striped foliage; 6 to 10 inches tall.


Plant Type: Tube stock, young plants.
Planting Width: Refer to the catalogue or additional information on specific varieties.
Positioning: Depends on the plant; refer to catalogue for specific information.
General Information: Landscaping pots are young plants, which are quite young and have a small root system. As they are a young plant care must be taken to ensure their survival by following specific watering, fertilising and planting guidelines. When you receive your order – Gently remove the packaging. Your landscaping pots will require a water when you first receive them. A short soak in a container of water making sure they are wet from the top right through to the bottom. It is recommended you let your plants recuperate from their travelling for a few days before planting. Unpack and place them in a semi-shaded area away from the hot afternoon sun for a few days. Water gently as required until damp. Do not over or under water. We advise that you also water your plants thoroughly approx. half hour prior to planting, this will assist removing your plant from its container.
To remove your plant, place your fingers either side of the plants stem covering the top of the container so no potting media falls out. Turn the container upside down and with your other hand gently squeeze the sides and bottom of the
container and then lift away from the plant. Plant into your prepared area. Once they are in the ground settle them in with a good watering.
Planting Depth – When you plant your plants the soil level should be equal to that of the media in the tube. Planting too deep could cause rotting and the death of your plants, raised planting may be a good idea in boggy areas.
Fertilising – Your plants already contain a small amount of slow release fertiliser. This should last them 6-8 weeks after purchase. When they do require feeding again we would recommend a slow release fertiliser such as Osmocote or
Nutracote, or an organic product such as Dynamic Lifter or Organic Life. These products should be used as directed.
Please note: Do not put fertiliser directly into the planting hole, as this will most likely burn the roots.
Delayed Planting – If you are unable to plant straight away, your containers can be kept together in a safe place. They must be kept moist and put in a partly sunny position away from hot afternoon sun. For plant spacing and general information about your specific varieties please refer to the catalogue you purchased from.
The ongoing maintenance of your landscaping plants will depend on their type and use.
Hedges – formal hedges require more attention to achieve and keep in their defined shape but can occupy less space than an informal hedge. Whilst growing to the required size, some trimming is usually beneficial to encourage side growth and more dense foliage from ground level up. Keep in mind the importance of light when creating your desired shape so that foliage lower down the hedge receives sufficient light to encourage healthy, even growth. Slower growing species require more patience to establish but have the reward of less regular maintenance once the desired size is attained. Avoid trimming at times when new growth could be affected by frosts.
Groundcovers – use mulch to control weeds and retain moisture while plants are establishing themselves. Some groundcovers will grow more quickly than other so ensure more active plants do not encroach on less active ones or
beyond your intended space. Remember that areas with many groundcovers will have competing root systems and when required, water in a manner that each receives their share.
Climbers – evergreen climbers can be trimmed as necessary to keep the desired shape and prevent them encroaching on other plants. Periodic trimming will generally be better than infrequent, more severe maintenance. Ensure plants have adequate support and prune to encourage growth in the desired direction. Some species, particularly deciduous ones, may benefit from the removal of old wood to encourage new growth.
Tips: Will need to be protected from extreme heat, frosts and strong winds for at least their first growing season until established.

Hakonechloa macra performs well in shade.

There are few grasses that perform well in the shade that also have ornamental value. One of the best is Japanese Forest Grass or Hakone Grass, Hakonechloa macra, particularly its distinctive variegated or colored-leaf cultivars. Originally from the wet, rocky cliffs in the mountains of the Tokaido district of southeast Honshu, Japan (where its common name is urahagusa), this is the only species in this genus in the grass family (Poaceae). The species is hardy to zone 4, while the cultivars may be less cold hardy (many are listed only to zone 6, but certain ones have survived for years in zone 5 gardens).

The slender, arching leaves give the effect of a tiny bamboo.

This slow-spreading perennial grass forms loose cascading mounds that provide dramatic textural contrasts with other shade-loving plants. Its arching form with the leaves tending to flow in the same direction makes it reminiscent of a cascading waterfall. Even though it is a creeper, it is never invasive, spreading by underground rhizomes. It is a relatively slow grower and may take a while to become established. Clumps can eventually get 2’ high and 3’ wide, although they often stay smaller than this.

Slender, arching, linear green leaves grow 12-36” long on wiry stems, giving the effect of a tiny bamboo. Variegation in the cultivars is affected by the conditions the plant is grown under.

H. macra ‘Albostriata’

They produce the brightest yellow-gold foliage in partial or dappled shade, but will also grow in full shade where the color fades to lime green. The color bleaches to creamy white when grown in full sun in cool summer climates (in hot climates they tend to burn in full sun). In the fall, the foliage takes on an orange to reddish cast, then turns light brown before collapsing in winter. Unlike many other ornamental grasses, this species does not remain standing to provide interest in the winter, but dies back to the ground.

In mid- to late summer, small airy inflorescences appear between the leaves, but the cultivars do not produce viable seed. In the fall the flower stalks turn orange or bronze.

H. macra ‘All Gold’

Grow H. macra in humus-rich, well-drained soil. It performs best in an evenly moist soil, especially during its initial spring growth cycle and during hot weather. Although it generally is grown in partial shade, in the cooler climates of the upper Midwest it can be grown in full sun. It is relatively slow to reappear in spring.

The golden and variegated cultivars brighten up shady or woodland gardens. This grass looks equally good as a single plant for a focal point or planted in drifts. It combines well with larger, deep green or blue-leaved plants, such as Hosta, ferns or mugo pine (Pinus mugo).

H. macra ‘Aureola’

Create eye catching combinations by planting near dark-leaved Heuchera (such as ‘Cathedral Windows’, ‘Obsidian’ or ‘Plum Pudding’), green mottled Pulmonaria, or green or silver Brunnera. Create a color echo by combining with other golden-leaved or plants of different form such as Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ or yellow bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis ‘Goldheart’) or variegated hostas to bring out the gold or cream variegations of the grass. Use gold or variegated forms as a backdrop for dark-colored flowers, such as dark purple ‘Queen of Night’ tulips or Astilbe ‘Burgundy’.

Hakone grass grows well in containers.

H. macra can be used as a ground cover for shady areas or in containers cascading over the sides like a waterfall. (It will not overwinter in an exposed container above ground, however – bury the container in late fall or move it into a cool, sheltered spot, such as an unheated garage, for the winter.) This grass is a wonderful accent alongside water gardens, dry steam beds, near a path, or at the base of a tree or post, or amid larger rocks in a rock garden. Try it on the top of a wall or terrace where it can cascade over the edge. It is an excellent addition to an Asian-style garden or can be used to provide a somewhat tropical look and feel.

Variegated leaves of the cultivar ‘Aureola’.

This grass has almost no insect or disease problems and is not favored by deer. Divide clumps in spring just as new foliage emerges, every 2 to 3 years or as necessary to propagate. After transplanting, they tend to “sit” for several weeks as they root out before putting on much top growth. This grass requires little maintenance, other than cutting the dead leaves back in late winter or early spring.

There are several cultivars that are more ornamental than the species, but they also tend to be slower growing, and less sun and drought tolerant.

  • ‘Albostriata’ (=’Albovariegata’) – the green leaves have thick and thin creamy white stripes. It is more sun tolerant that the golden forms, is somewhat faster growing, and gets taller, to as much as 3′. It may also be more cold hardy than the other colored forms.
  • ‘All Gold’ – a newer cultivar from Terra Nova Nurseries. It is brighter and more upright and spiky than other forms, and tends to be smaller and more slow growing.
  • ‘Aureola’ (sometimes listed as ‘Alboaurea’) – this is one of the most common cultivars, and was even given the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. It has bright golden leaves with narrow green or chartreuse stripes. The autumn foliage is red-to pink flushed.
  • ‘Benikaze’ – meaning ‘red wind,’ this cultivar is green through the summer, but takes on varying shades of red when the weather cools.

– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison

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