Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Japanese Blood Grass September 12, 2008

Halloween decorations are taking over the stores already, so maybe it’s not too early to start looking at the spooky side of the garden. I saw this gorgeous specimen of Japanese Blood Grass (Imperata cylindrica) happily growing in a neighbor’s parking strip the other day:

Japanese blood grass

I love the deep red against the lime green in the foliage. It likes full sun or light shade, might need a bit of mulch to overwinter in colder climates (my plant book says it’s okay for Zones 4-9), and prefers moist/well-drained soil. Some areas consider it to be aggressive, but at least in Seattle I don’t think I’ve ever seen one take over. Perhaps it is best grown in a setting and climate where you can keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn’t cause trouble.

To round things out before Oct. 31, maybe I need to track down and photograph some of the other “blood” themed plants – Bleeding heart (I know, it’s a spring thing), Blood flower, Bloodroot and Bloody butcher!?!


5 Responses to “Japanese Blood Grass”

  1. rstair Says:

    There are sure alot of blood themed plants to be found in the plant kingdom. Kind of morbid, huh? I like the color of the Japanese Blood grass, I wonder if it is invasive here. I’m zone 7b.

  2. carey Says:

    I applaud you for your concern over invasive plants! Japanese blood grass is, indeed, invasive in zone 7b. (If you happen to be in Georgia, it is know illegal to grow, cultivate, or sell the plant.) Japanese blood grass is a cultivar of cogongrass, which is named the seventh worst weed in the world. Japanese blood grass can revert back to the invasive form, losing its red color and spreading rapidly.

  3. fairegarden Says:

    I like the way you think. In response to rstair, I am in zone 7a with no problem with it. I want it to spread faster in fact. It is not what could be called invasive here at all. It looks good with any other plant and seems very forgiving of many environments, wet or dry, shade or sun. I do think it needs good drainage to winter over anywhere. It is the perfect plant to be backlit by the sun, morning or late day. A great all around plant.

    Frances at Fairegarden

  4. Cynthia Says:

    I have never grown this but it is a beautiful plant. I look forward to a Halloween post from you. It sounds like fun. 🙂

  5. greenwalks Says:

    rstair –

    As other posters mentioned, the grass is lovely but in certain (warmer) climates reverts to its invasive non-hybridized form from flower seed and wreaks havoc. Here’s a link to a map and other info about where not to plant it:

    In areas where it is invasive/illegal, there are other red grasses such as Hakonechloa macra ‘Beni Kaze’ (has a more cascading habit, whereas JBG is more upright/spiky-looking) or Panicum ‘Shenandoah’ that don’t have such nasty habits but fit the bill for dramatic grasses!


    carey –

    It seems like my area (Seattle) is not one where we need to be as concerned about its scarier habits. I’m glad it’s illegal to grow where it can become a threat.


    Frances –

    I’m sure it is lovely in your garden, especially backlit as you say.


    Cynthia –

    I hope I remember to write it in time!

    – Karen

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