Elephant grass is a fast-growing, hardy, clump-forming and deciduous grass. It grows neatly tall and tall, and is often referred to simply as Chinese reed or Chinese grass, although there are many different varieties of it. Miscanthus x gigantheus is a hybrid plant, i.e. it was created by hybridizing a tetraploid form of Miscanthus sacchafiflorus and a diploid form of Miscanthus sinensis (unequal numbers of chromosomes).

Growth and characteristics

Elephant grass is characterized by its slightly overhanging growth. It looks really impressive and very beautiful, is quite noticeable, very popular because of its size and as a privacy screen. Grasses always have the advantage of appearing light and airy, graceful and yet dense. Elephant grass is no exception. The leaves are long and narrow, a beautiful green color, and hang in an arc. The bloom is brown and not spectacular, but also looks interesting in the crowd. The flowering time is autumn, but only in sufficiently warm years. No seeds or fruits are formed in our climatic region, the climate is not warm enough for that. As the name Chinese reed suggests, the grass comes from Asia, but not originally from China, but from Japan.

Elephant grass grows up to 4 meters high. The stems are strong and stable. It is very beneficial that this grass does not spread like other species and varieties. It multiplies with the help of its root rhizomes. Bamboo, which grows and gets tall at a similar rate, can quickly become a problem in gardens due to its root runners. Elephant grass is a good alternative. The clumpy elephant grass spreads in a circle and can be kept well under control. The stems of elephant grass dry up over the winter. They are cut off near the ground at the end of winter, just before the plant sprouts again. It takes a few years to reach a height of 4 meters. But three to four are sufficient, then the elephant grass shines in all its glory.
It is also beneficial that the plants require very little care. In the first few years, care must be taken to remove other plants, because they make water and light a challenge for the grass, but then Miscanthus x gigantheus can cope well on its own.

The elephant grass grows extremely quickly. It hardly needs any maintenance and only removes a few nutrients from the soil. All of this makes this grass a popular renewable resource. It is popular and often used in the automotive and construction industries. Due to its rapid growth, the elephant grass is also suitable as a substitute for wood and heating oil. 1 hectare of the grass can replace 4,000 to 9,000 liters of heating oil. Elephant grass thrives wherever maize also thrives and produces maximum biomass.

Elephant grass is not hollow inside, like bamboo for example, it is filled with a kind of pulp. This makes this grass suitable as a natural insulating material when it is chopped up. The plant has something else good. When burned, significantly less carbon dioxide is emitted than is the case with other fossil fuels. The grass is actually harvested in winter, from February to March. The dried stems are cut off close to the ground.

Care of elephant grass

Elephant grass is easy to care for. It gets by with almost no maintenance, at least from the third year of standing. It is important to keep the soil free of weeds in the year of planting and in the first year of standing. Miscanthus x gigantheus does not tolerate root competition at all. You have to know that this grass does not thrive equally well everywhere. Difficulties are inevitable in mountainous areas, snowy regions and very cold corners. Young plants suffer from the climate and do not thrive as intended. In the worst case, they won’t survive the winter.

The leaves of young elephant grass die at temperatures of minus 5 ° C, but usually sprout again at warmer temperatures. It is also important that not too much nitrogen gets into the soil. This delays the ripening of the shoots in autumn. The frost resistance is then no longer guaranteed.

Otherwise elephant grass is very easy to care for and does not place high demands on the location or the plant substrate. The plants must be sufficiently watered, should not dry out and only need minimal fertilizer, if at all.


The location should definitely be sunny and warm. Elephant grass is not a shade plant. Without the sun it does not thrive, or it never reaches the size that is actually possible. It cannot unfold to its fullest beauty.

  • Full sun to partly sun
  • Definitely warm
  • At least three hours of sun a day
  • Not suitable for locations above 700 to 800 meters above sea level and also not for very snowy areas
  • No north-facing slopes, no cold-blocking valleys and no areas that are at risk of late frost

Plant substrate

The plant substrate should not be too light, neither too dry nor too wet. Normal garden soil is not bad, good arable soil is even better. Sandy soils can be improved with simple means and soils that are too heavy can also be made a little lighter.

  • Well-rooted and water-bearing arable soil, i.e. humus loamy soil, is ideal
  • Sandy soils need to be improved
  • Very heavy and compacted soils are unfavorable
  • Waterlogged soils are unsuitable
  • Extremely dry soil is also not ideal, but can be made up for with irrigation.


Elephant grass is well suited as a solitary or privacy hedge. Both work very well. As a solitary, in the middle of the lawn, the grass can spread in all directions and is getting bigger and bigger. But it can also be kept in check. If you want to prevent the spread of the rhizomes, build a rhizome barrier when planting. It must look at least 30 cm deep into the ground and a little bit above.

  • The best time is between April and May
  • Good soil preparation is a great advantage. To do this, dig up and loosen the soil at least 20 cm deep in autumn.
  • Often only the rhizomes are planted. They are simply much cheaper to buy. This is very noticeable when you are planting a hedge. If you only want one plant as a solitary plant, you can of course obtain it from a gardener you trust, otherwise it is quite expensive.
  • The rhizomes do not tolerate drought. It is best to plant them as soon as possible after buying them.
  • Planting distance about 1 meter
  • Prepare and loosen the soil well
  • Optimal soil temperature when planting around 10 ° C.
  • Place rhizomes 8 cm deep in the soil in heavy soils and 4 cm deep in light soils.
  • It is important to press the soil down well after planting and to step on it.
  • Then water.

Watering and fertilizing

Watering is important for elephant grass. The rhizomes do not cope well with drought. It is ideal for elephant grass if you also build in an irrigation hose when you plant a hedge. That makes work a lot easier. There is no need to fertilize, so that is hardly any work. However, pouring should not be canceled for a long time.

  • The soil should not be too dry and not dry out
  • If the grass is not wet enough, the grass just doesn’t grow that well
  • In the case of long drought, growth stalls. Leaves can also fall off.
  • Water is particularly important in the first three months after planting.
  • After growing, a short dry spell is no longer a problem.
  • There is no need to fertilize, the need for nutrients is rather low.
  • Generally do not fertilize in the year of planting!
  • Otherwise, for example, you can fertilize with ashes – good potassium fertilizer
  • Apply fertilizer immediately after cutting.

To cut

There is not a lot to be pruned on the elephant grass. Once a year it is cut off close to the ground so that it can be renewed, there is actually not much more to do. There are two ways when to cut. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

  • Can be cut in autumn and winter
  • I recommend pruning in spring because the grass is still pretty to look at in winter and the stalks protect the rhizome from the cold and too much moisture and serve as winter quarters for insects.

If you live in colder regions, you are probably better off cutting in autumn and then packing the grass eyrie. This protects against the cold on the one hand, but also against moisture. Too much moisture causes grasses to die much more often than cold. The moisture penetrates into the heart of the plant and from there the grass dies.


Elephant grass is actually very hardy, around minus 20 ° C. This is not always the case in the regions described above. Then the clumps should be protected. This is of course more difficult with a hedge than with a single plant.


Elephant grass can be propagated in different ways, by rhizomes, by division and by sowing. The grass also reproduces itself through rhizomes, sometimes unintentionally. If you want to prevent this, you have to build in a rhizome barrier and use a spade to cut off excess pieces.

  • Seeds available in stores
  • Very seldom sowing, dividing rhizomes is more suitable
  • Rhizomes should be large enough (7 to 10 cm) and have at least 4 to 5 eyes.
  • The longer a rhizome, the greater the nutrient supply for the shoot.
  • The tissue must be healthy and strong. Dispose of soft or black fabric!
  • The division of the eyrie takes place when it sprouts in spring,
  • The eyrie is dug up and smoothly split in two with a spade.

Diseases and pests

Diseases and pests are very rare. Elephant grass is robust and quite insensitive. In the wrong location, especially if it is too wet, the grass tends to develop fungal diseases. Otherwise, weeds in the immediate vicinity are grass’s worst enemy, especially in the first two years.

Even if elephant grass is not the scientifically correct name for Miscanthus x gigantheus, this grass is an absolute highlight in the garden. I’m a big fan of grasses anyway, and I really like this one. But I also love the noises that such a grass eyrie or even an entire hedge make. Caring for the elephant grass is quite easy if you can manage to remove the weeds and ensure adequate water supply. I think Miscanthus x gigantheus is very nice as a hedge, although of course the privacy screen is gone after the cut in the early part of the year. It takes about three months for the grass to function as a privacy screen again. If that doesn’t suit you, you should opt for a different privacy hedge.

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