Taming Silver Arrow

The Germans seem to have an affinity for silver arrows. Like the famous Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows from the 1930s and 1950s, the Silver Arrow I’m talking about is a racy thing. This German cultivar of maidenhair grass, with creamy stripes through the middle and along the leaves, is officially named Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silberpfeil’ (German for “silver arrow”). Unless older variegated miscanthus cultivars, ‘Silberpfeil’ has a more upright habit and isn’t as prone to flopping over. However, to achieve the best form and to bloom, it needs at least 6 hours of full sun a day. Grown in more shade, the culms get lax and bend under the weight of the leaves, which produces a disheveled and decidedly less elegant look.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silberpfeil’ in July of 2010. It’s a hard to believe that we planted it from a 4-inch pot in the summer of 2007.

With a height of 5-6 ft. and a width of 4-5 ft., ‘Silberpfeil’ is a stately plant with a commanding presence. Ours is planted outside our front yard fence and its variegated leaves make it stand out from the surrounding vegetation. In fact, from across the street, your eyes are immediately drawn to this slightly arching clump of greenish-silver foliage. Of all the ornamental grasses we have, this is my favorite.

Like most miscanthus, ‘Silberpfeil’ is hardy to zone 5 and can be grown in climates with pretty harsh winters. It doesn’t seem to be fussy about soil—ours is in clay—and it likes regular watering.

Some miscanthus cultivars are said to re-seed freely but I haven’t found a single seedling from our ‘Silberpfeil’ even though it produces copious amounts of seeds on its 6 ft. plumes. This leads me to believe that this particular cultivar is sterile.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silberpfeil’ on January 17, 2011
after my wife cut it back

As vigorous as it is, the base of the plant forms a very tight clump, expanding outward by just a few inches each year. Since our ‘Silberpfeil’ has reached its mature size, I decided to remove about 6 inches from the back of the plant to create a bit of space between it and the fence. Initial attempts using a shovel failed so I got out our heavy pry bar. Ten minutes later I had two larger and three smaller divisions ready to be potted up. I may do some more chopping and prying on the weekend to create additional room—it certainly won’t hurt.

I removed 6-7 inches to give the clump some breathing room
One of the chunks I pried out with the crowbar
Divisions ready to be potted up


  1. I love this plant, you can put it anywhere, and it grow so fast.

  2. That's a great tool, isn't it? Mine is going to get a workout this spring digging up two large Miscanthus plantings.

  3. Gorgeous, will it grow up here?

  4. Ellada, I agree! Hard to believe our clump was a 4-inch container plant just 4 years ago.

    Alan, one of the divisions has your name on it.

    Becky, yes, it will definitely grow in Mt Shasta. I'll bring up a 5-gallon plant in the spring, together with all the other grasses and lavenders I've been collecting for you.

  5. Are we going to have to drop the word "Bamboo" from the EBPN? Thanks, sounds exciting. Lovely!


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