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One of the most popular ornamental grasses in German gardens is Miscanthus sinensis, the Chinese reed. Also known as zebra grass, tiger grass or elephant grass, the sweet grass is often kept outdoors or in tubs and delights all year round with its striped stalks in different colors. Since the grasses are extremely robust plants, winter protection can be implemented without any problems.

Caution: risk of confusion

Before you can prepare the grass for the winter, you need to verify that your specimen really is Miscanthus sinensis. Another crop known as tiger grass is on the market: centella asiatica. This plant is not a sweet grass, but a swamp plant that occurs worldwide in the tropics and subtropics. The pennywort differs significantly from Chinese reed:

  • not hardy
  • round or kidney-shaped leaves
  • does not form stalks

Except for the nickname, the two plants have nothing in common and it would be a fatal mistake to keep the pennywort outside over the winter. Therefore, you should definitely check whether the plant is Chinese reed or pennywort when you buy a plant called tiger grass. Since both plants like to be planted near water, they can usually be found in the same category, which increases the risk of confusion.

left: Miscanthus sinensis, zebra grass
right: Centella asiatica, pennywort

Zebra grass winter in the garden

Instructions in 7 steps

Chinese reed as a garden plant is much easier to overwinter than in the bucket. Since the culms of Miscanthus sinensis are completely hardy, only the root ball needs to be protected, which is also quite robust. The following instructions explain the individual points that are necessary for this part of the care:

Steps 1 - 3

1. Cut only after winter

When growing zebra grasses outdoors, be sure to take advantage of the plant's protective mechanisms. Zebra grass should never be cut back in the garden, as the stalks act as the actual winter protection of the plant and are therefore ideal for overwintering. The plants are only pruned after the winter in early spring, which significantly improves the sprouting of the new stalks. Best of all, the stalks dry up but don't lose their color. This makes them effective against the dreary gray of winter.

2nd location

You do not need a special location in the garden for the zebra grass over the winter. As long as the location meets the requirements of the Chinese reed, you can leave the plant there. If it is too dark, you should definitely choose a sunnier place, since the sweet grass likes it sunny even in winter. Without enough sun, the plant weakens over the cold season and is no longer so well protected. However, winter protection is definitely required after transplanting, as the roots still have to establish themselves in the new place.

3. Freshly planted grasses

In itself, the sweet grasses do not have to be provided with winter protection, unless they are freshly planted specimens. Planting in mid-May is recommended. Mid to late summer is also possible, but the roots have not developed sufficiently long in this short time. This can affect elephant grass in cold temperatures.

Steps 4 - 7

4. Tie straws together

Before you distribute the winter protection, you must tie the stalks together so that they can better protect the root ball. In regions that have mild winters, this step is not necessary. If you want to be on the safe side, you should still tie them together:

  • wear gardening gloves
  • Zebra grass stalks are very sharp
  • Use sisal cords to tie together
  • alternatively, ropes made of coconut fibers can be used
  • from the bottom, wrap the zebra grass
  • do not wrap too tightly
  • just so that the stalks hold together
  • repeat this step to the top
  • finally bring the line back to the ground
  • knot
  • Place the bamboo stick in the middle of the zebra grass
  • the bamboo stick acts as protection against snow loads and wind

5. Winter protection

The winter protection has the task of protecting the root ball from the cold and also stores moisture, which is important for the survival of Miscanthus sinensis. The winter shelter is set up in the following way after the grass has been tied together:

  • Spread a layer of brushwood, straw or leaves around the root ball
  • Wrap tied straws in half
  • Garden fleeces are ideal for this
  • The ends of the stalks should protrude from the fleece

6. Fertilize

No fertilizer is given throughout the winter. The plant simply does not need this during the cold season, as it is in a resting phase.

7. Casting

Be sure to check the soil for possible dryness on frost-free days. If this is the case, add some water to keep the sweet grass from drying out. This is one of the greatest dangers for the plant.

tip: When tying the straws together, you don't just have to fasten them at the top. The stalks can be braided very well and thus integrated decoratively into the winter garden.

Tiger grass overwinters in buckets

Instructions in 7 steps

Overwintering the Miscanthus sinensis looks different in a pot. Since the sweet grass is not planted directly in the ground, it definitely needs complete winter protection. The risk of the pot freezing is far too great. Follow these guidelines to optimize care over the winter:

Steps 1 - 3

1. Location

The most important thing when overwintering a tiger grass in a pot is the location. The grass needs a place that has the following characteristics:

  • Light requirement: sunny
  • dry
  • should be ventilated

You have either unheated bright rooms such as conservatories that have a window or door for ventilation, or dry outdoor locations that are protected from excessive moisture from above. Canopies are recommended here, for example. In any case, the plants should get enough sun. Depending on where you place your specimen, different preparation is required.

2. Cutting

Before you can overwinter the zebra grass in a pot indoors, you first have to cut it to size. The Chinese reed can quickly become too tall in the pot and should therefore be trimmed a little. Simply use sharp, disinfected scissors and gloves. Then cut back to desired height. Be sure to leave at least ten centimeters of the stalks so that bacteria or mold cannot settle on the plant.

3. Overwinter in tubs outdoors

If you want to overwinter the potted plant outdoors, you do not cut it. To do this, tie the straws together according to the instructions described above.

Steps 4 - 7

4. Winter protection

When overwintering the potted plants outdoors, winter protection is now missing. This ensures that the vessel does not freeze through. To do this, choose either bubble wrap or garden fleece and generously wrap the planter and the lower part of the plant with it. Also cover the substrate slightly from above so that moisture cannot accidentally penetrate on frosty days. In the worst case, this can lead to mold.

5. Fertilize

Potted plants are also not fertilized over the winter, even if they overwinter in the house. The dormant phase of the plant is very extensive and therefore no fertilizer is needed.

6. Casting

Watering must never be forgotten over the winter period. Since the plant only has a certain amount of substrate, it cannot really store up water and is therefore dependent on water supplements. Also only water in frost-free times when the pot is outdoors or regularly when the pot can look forward to a place indoors. Make sure, however, that the substrate does not become waterlogged, so that rot cannot occur.

7. Underlay for the bucket

Finally, it is advisable to place the pots on a surface. Since the bottom of the jars must not be packed, it tends to freeze through from below. The following materials are ideal as a base for the zebra grass:

  • styrofoam
  • block of wood

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