Every year the well-respected Perennial Plant Association picks a Perennial Plant of the Year. Winning top honors for 2009 is golden hakone grass, a hardy, shade-friendly ornamental grass native to Honshu Island in Japan.
Known botanically as Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola,’ this clump-forming grass will really light up a shady corner of your garden. It can also take a fair amount of sun.
(Photos by Steven Still, Perennial Plant Association)
The individual blades of grass are bright yellow with thin green stripes. When the nights turn cool in fall, they become tinged with shades of pink and red.
Like most other ornamental grasses, this one is also deer resistant.
Hakonechloa is grown mostly for its golden foliage, but it does produce tiny, inconspicuous flower spikes from late summer through mid-fall.
Hardy to USDA Zone 5, golden hakone grass will produce clumps that are 12 to 18 inches tall and 18 to 24 inches wide. It likes moist, humus-rich soil and will not grow well in heavy clay or very dry soil.
Use Hakonechloa as a ground cover, in the front of a perennial border or in a patio container. It works particularly well as an edging plant because of its softly cascading habit.
Hakonechloa grass works well as a companion planting for lots of perennials. Mix it with white-flowered plants in an evening garden or try it with hostas, especially ones with a bluish tint or golden edges.
Plant it with other shade lovers with red or purple foliage such as heuchera or cimicifuga.
Other good companion plants include lady’s mantle, astilbe, epimedium, bleeding heart and wild ginger.