Content Detail

Japanese forest grass is a low-growing grass that can be planted close together to form a ground cover.  There are some interesting cultivars that provide color in the landscape. 

  • Family (English) Grass
  • Family (botanic) Poaceae
  • Tree or plant type Grass, Ground cover, Perennial
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Medium plant (12-24 inches)
  • Light exposure Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, late winter, late spring, early summer, midsummer, late summer, early fall, mid fall, late fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Other
  • Shape or form Arching, Creeping

Size and Form:

Japanese forest grass is relatively low-growing, reaching 12 to 24 inches tall.  It has arching leaves that provide a sweeping appearance as though the plants were flowing.  The plant will spread by rhizomes, but very slowly. For this reason, it can be used as a ground cover.

Native geographic location and habitat:

It is native to Japan and 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 only modestly showy. Flowering time is late summer.

Fruit description:

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

Plant care:

Japanese forest grass is best grown 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.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

No serious pest problems.

All Gold Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’):

This is a more compact cultivar, only 12 to 15 inches, with golden leaves.

Aureola Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’):

Leaves on this cultivar are yellow and green striped. Foliage is more likely to burn in hot sun.

Beni-Kaze Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Beni-Kaze’):  

Distinguished by green leaves that turn to red in fall.

Fubuki Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Fubuki’):

Green and white striped foliage that grows to 14 inches tall and develops orange tones in fall.  

Naomi Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Naomi’): 

Foliage is yellow and green striped in summer and develops red-purple shades in fall.

Nicholas Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Nicholas’):

Green leaves which grow 8 to 16 inches tall in the summer and develop good orange and red fall color.

Stripe It Rich Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Stripe It Rich’):

Gold and white striped foliage, growing 6 to 10 inches tall.


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