Usually found towering at the back of the border, Miscanthus really comes into its own in the autumn, when its feathery silver panicles unwind from its upright foliage. In shades of claret, red, purple and brown, the bold arching flowers fade through pink to silver, becoming fluffy with age. The tight clumps of narrow foliage also change colour in winter, turning orange, copper, rust and cinnamon. Spectacular in its transformation, Miscanthus will anchor a scheme throughout the winter with its distinctive skeleton.
With Dogwood: Miscanthus sinensis ‘Flamingo’ with Cornus florida ‘Rainbow’
Leaning into the russet arms of the cornus, Miscanthus adds a bit of architectural weight to the planting scheme. In late summer, you get wonderful claret-red flowers that look like wet mops (but more elegant). These Miscanthus flowers cascade from the plant, leading the eye to the dogwood below.
As the autumn colours of the dogwood intensify, the flowers of the Miscanthus fade through pink to a silvery white. The winter silhouette of the grass will remain strong throughout the winter, so combine it with spring-flowering bulbs for extended interest. Try Eranthis hyemalis, Narcissus cyclamineus and the dwarf species tulip ‘Fusilier’, all of which can be planted this autumn.
How to grow
Miscanthus grows well in any soil and autumn is one of the best times to plant them. Try to position flowering varieties so they catch the afternoon sun, and leave the flowerheads on throughout the winter so they shimmer in the low light.
Cut down to the base in late January. Miscanthus bulks up steadily, so it will need dividing every five to seven years. Divide in spring, but always take care when handling the foliage, as it is sharp and can cut your hands.