Native to Japan, this delicate perennial is a member of the grass family, Poaceae, that also includes corn, rice, and bamboo.  It forms loose cascading mounds of gold variegated leaves that take on a pinkish hue in the fall before turning buff color in winter.  Tiny inconspicuous blossoms are born late in the season.   The beautiful color of the foliage combines well with many other plants and lends its brightness to shady nooks and corners. Hakonechloa makes a good ground cover under the canopy of large trees, looks beautiful draped over rocks or walls, and is a great addition to pots and containers. It is a perfect addition to an oriental garden with its bamboo-like foliage. The genus name, Hakonechloa, honors the hot springs region near Mount Hakone in Honshu, Japan. The specific epithet, macra, is from the Greek word meaning large. The cultivar name, ‘Aureola’, is the diminutive form of the Latin word aureus meaning golden and refers to the variegation of the leaves.

Type: Perennial Grass

Bloom: Inconspicuous in August –October; grown for foliage

Size: 12”-18” H x 18” W

Light: Partial to full shade; leaves will scorch in too much sun, but not develop their yellow color in too much shade.

Soil: Rich, moist, humusy, well-drained soil.

Fertilizer: Organic mulch applied once a year in spring will provide adequate nutrients.

Hardiness: Zones 7-9 (6 with protection).

Care: If you live in Zone 6 or colder, mulch with fall leaves.

Pests and Diseases: None of importance.

Propagation: Spreads slowly by stolons and is easy to divide in spring or fall.

Companion plants: Great with trees such as Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) and dwarf Alberta spruce (Picea glauca ‘Conica’). For a beautiful combination pair it with Lady’s Mantel (Alchemilia mollis), European wild ginger (Asarum europaeum), or Japanese painted fern ( Athyrium nipooonicum ‘Pictum’). Wild blue phlox (Phlox divaricata var. laphamii), hostas, sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum), ferns, bleeding hearts, and astilbes are all beautiful complements to this grass.

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By Karen

2 thoughts on “Plant Profile: Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ )”
  1. It is a lovely grass – not only its colour but also its shape. I’ve never noticed the flowers but I’ll make an effort this year – just to say I’ve seen them (and to take a picture)

  2. Grass flowers are very interesting and the more I see of them the more I like them. I use them in fall and winter arrangements, although I have yet to do anything with those of hakonechloa.

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