A plant trade of Hakone grass

Gardeners love to share plants and, about three years ago I received a chunk of Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ – aka gold Japanese forest grass in exchange for a division of thyme from my gardens. When I received this trade I was not quite sure where to place the shade-tolerant ornamental grass but it soon found a new home near a huge oak tree – a dark spot in my Connecticut garden that needed a bright punch.

The new transplant grew slowly that first season and I was not convinced it would survive the winter.The following spring brought a pleasant surprise.


Though not initially enamored with the coloring of Hakonechloa, the grass soon grew on me. Its drooping leaves swayed gently in the breeze. Its gentle, pale yellow and green hues added soft, bright color to an otherwise darker group of foliage, without screaming look at me!

Hakonechloa Macra Aureola From Debbie Summer 2012 Thumb

Then oak tree had to come down to allow more sun to reach our rooftop solar panels. With that huge tree –  at least 80 feet tall – gone, the area took on a whole new look. No longer overshadowed by the massive tree trunk, the hakonechloa grass and fellow perennial plantings became the focus, rather than under-plantings.

With new-found sunlight, the plantings showed renewed vigor. The pale yellow tones of the hakonechloa grass played well with the creamy variegation of adjacent carex, and offset the pale green lichen covering a nearby granite boulder. The creamy hues of the grass perfectly matched those of the tickseed coreopsis blooms at the front of the bed.


The area is still developing. A small hypericum bush (left center) has yet to come into its own, a low-bush blueberry (right center) should now spread its wings without the competition for water and nutrients from the giant oak. To the left of the hakone, a climbing hydrangea that once grew up the oak trunk will soon cover the remaining stump and wend its way along closer to the ground, and the carex will need some thinning so it doesn’t overrun other plantings. But the hakonechloa grass I was initially apprehensive of has become the anchor to this area.

Carex Tickseed Coreopsis Hakonechloa Macra Summer 2012 Thumb

Now, each time I look out from the front of my house, I catch a glimpse of the hakonechloa grass, enjoy how its presence pulls its neighboring plants together into a cohesive group, and  think of Debbie, from A Garden of Possibilities. Her hakone division is another gardening gift that keeps giving … well worth my thyme in trade.

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6 comments for “A plant trade of Hakone grass

  1. October 10, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    Your gift of grass is perfect in that setting with the low rocks to flow over. It really does look like a fountain.

    I find that mine do very well in sun. I don’t really have much shade so both of my hakone grasses (golden Aurea and red tinged Beni Kaze) grow in sun and like it. But I can see from your photos that I need something “hard”, like your rocks to contrast with the “soft flow” of their foliage. I love seeing how others grow the same plants I have, in different settings.

    • October 11, 2012 at 9:15 am

      Laurrie, have your hakone grasses self-sown? I find this is an issue with so many of the other ornamental grasses I grow but I haven’t seen this yet with hakone.

  2. October 10, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Joene, How nice to see the hakone garss has survived. My thyme is still alive and has been divided and transplanted several times. I do remember that you were a little reluctant about taking the hakone grass…I knew it would grow on you!

    • October 11, 2012 at 9:18 am

      Debbie, you were correct, and I thank you. So glad to hear the thyme I shared with you is expanding well. It’s such a perfect edging and/or groundcover, in addition to being a culinary herb.

  3. cathy
    May 2, 2014 at 7:26 pm


    My Hakone grass after this past winter in the northeast (lots of snow) looks dried out with brown spots. At the root it seems to be some green, but for the most part the leaves look dried up. Is this indicative of the grass no longer being alive? Can it return it’s color or should it be dug up and plant new ones?

    Thank you!

    C from NY

    • May 3, 2014 at 6:58 am

      Cathy, I would give your Hakone grass a bit more time. Grasses, in general, emerge later than other perennials so you don’t want to be too quick to write them off. Late winter through early spring is the time to prune off last years growth. After this pruning, if you see NO fresh top growth after a couple more weeks of warm weather and decent rain, you probably need to replace it. New top growth often first shows around the outer edges of the clump. Here in south central CT, my Hakone just started new top growth last week.

      Good luck!

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