University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
GOLDEN HAKONE GRASS
Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
year the Perennial Plant Association, the professional organization of growers
and designers, names a plant of the year. This is either a new plant, or one
they feel deserves wider use, and grows well in most areas of the country. For 2009, the perennial golden hakone grass
has been voted as the Perennial Plant of the Year. It is low maintenance, the golden leaves add
color to shady sites, and it is useful in many landscape situations.
golden hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'), or golden Japanese
forest grass, is native to shaded mountain cliffs in Japan. Its name derives from the region in Japan (Hakon)
and the Greek word for grass (chloa), and the word for large (macra). It grows 12 to 18 inches tall, and 18 to 24
inches wide. The fine, long leaves and
arching habit resemble a cascading miniature bamboo.
main attraction of this ornamental grass are its leaves that are one-half inch
wide, four to six inches long, and golden yellow with thin green stripes. Leaves are tinged with pink and red in
fall. Flower spikes in late summer are
to USDA zones 5 to 9 (minus 10 to minus 20 degrees average minimum in winter),
this grass needs part shade in hot climates.
In cooler climates, with adequate moisture, it will take full sun. It will tolerate full shade, just being less
vigorous and with less golden color. As with many variegated or golden plants, deep shade means
they need more green chlorophyll to
make up for the less light they receive.
best soil for this grass is organic or rich humus, moist but well-drained. It does not like poorly drained soils, heavy
clay, or very dry sandy soils. If too hot or dry, leaves may burn.
grass spreads slowly by stolons, but is not invasive or aggressive so is not a
threat to nearby plants. Being a slow
grower it will not need dividing for many years. If you do want to divide it, do so in spring
as new growth is emerging. This is a
low-maintenance grass, having few if any pest and disease problems, and usually
passed over by deer. The main
maintenance is cutting back dead leaves in late winter or early spring.
hakone grass is useful in masses, fronts of borders, woodland gardens,
hillsides, rock gardens, containers, wall gardens, Asian-style gardens, edges
of streams or water gardens, and as a groundcover. The gold color is powerful, so use it
sparingly unless you desire a bold visual impact. Try it with purple-leaved coralbells or
bugbane, or with golden or blue-leaved hostas.
The fine texture of the grass makes a striking contrast to the bold
texture of large hosta leaves. Other
good companion plants include foamflowers, astilbe, epimedium, wild ginger,
bleeding heart, and lady's mantle.
is the most common cultivar (cultivated variety) of this species, and has won
an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticulture Society in England. A similar cultivar, but less bold, is
'Alboaurea'. White variegation, not
gold, is on 'Albovariegata'. 'All Gold'
is more upright and a brighter color.
You can find this ornamental grass at many complete garden centers,
nurseries, and from specialty perennial growers.
Return to Perry's Perennial