In today’s Plant Profile I thought we would take a look at one of my favorite ornamental grasses, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Adagio’ or Adagio for short. This maiden grass is such a delight to use in the garden as it works with virtually every plant that is paired with. It is a compact version of the larger maiden grasses like ‘Gracillimus’ so it can fit in all but the smallest gardens. I’m getting ahead of myself a bit so let’s step back and look at the conditions that Adagio would like to call home.
Like all Miscanthus, Adagio prefers full sun and well-drained soil. If placed in a little shade, it will perform fine but you can expect it to be a floppy mess if sited anywhere with less than 6 hours of direct sun. Adagio needs well-drained soil but that soil can be moist, well-drained soil or dry, well-drained soil…it’s tolerant of both. I have found that Miscanthus performs best in lean soil that tends to be on the dry side; I think it keeps them looking stout and they have less tendency to flop. If you live in a coastal region where the soil tends to be high in salts, you are in luck with Miscanthus of all types.
Adagio reaches a height of around 4′ and they are equally as wide. When they are in bloom, their height can easily expand to 5′. They form a solid mound of foliage that has delightful wispy tips that blow in the wind to capture your attention; they really are an eye-catching plant in the garden. If you can site them so that they are backlit by sunlight either in the early morning or late evening, you will be rewarded with a glowing display that lasts throughout the seasons. Miscanthus ‘Adagio’ is a four season plant…the only time that it isn’t showy is when it is cut to the ground in late February or early March. Here’s a tip for performing the most disdained chore in the garden: the easiest way that I know to cut back ornamental grasses is to tie them together about 12″ above the ground with either twine or a bungee cord. You can then use hedge trimmers or a saw to cut below the twine. What you are left with is a neatly bundled package of brown foliage that is easy to dispose of. Even though I said that this is the easiest method, there is actually an easier way to eliminate the winter foliage: burning. I’m not recommending that you burn yours since I don’t have enough insurance to cover the cost of your house when it catches fire but I’ve seen it done before and it is remarkably efficient. Within 2 to 3 minutes of setting the fire, the 5′ grass is reduced to a pile of ash.
Miscanthus ‘Adagio’ is a wonderful companion plant to Knockout Roses. The dark green Miscanthus foliage is the perfect backdrop to the sea of color that the roses provide from April until December (in the Richmond area). It’s hard to come up with a pair of tougher plants than Miscanthus and Knockout Roses. They are both remarkably drought tolerant once established and relatively free of pest problems. (See this link for more information on a disease that is threatening the Knockouts.) The plumes that emerge from Adagio in August and September are a welcome sight to a tired landscape that has been through a typical Mid-Atlantic gardening summer of drought and high temperatures. These plumes change to tan as the foliage does when the first frosts begin in the fall. They remain remarkably attractive through the winter and the birds enjoy the refuge that they offer. Miscanthus ‘Adagio’ is quite the sight to behold when the snow begins to fall too. I highly recommend Adagio as a carefree plant that can fit into all but the smallest of gardens. It will help soften hard lines in the garden and provide you with four seasons of beauty. If you have experience with Miscanthus sinensis ‘Adagio’, leave me a comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy gardening!