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Miscanthus (Miscanthus X Giganteus) is a "woody" perenial grass of Asian descent, that when established, will grow about 111/2 feet yearly. It produces new shoots annually which appear similar to thin bamboo cane, averaging around 3/8" in diameter. Miscanthus x giganteus is a sterile triploid (three sets of chromosomes) formed by a natural cross of miscanthus sacchariflorus and miscanthus sinesis. Because it is sterile it is propogated by rhizome division. The crop is established by planting pieces of the root (rhizomes), which are cut to about 4" in length. The cold hardy grass grows rapidly (C4 photosynthesis), has low nutrient requirements, has few pests or diseases and produces high yeilds.

Don standing with miscanthus x giganteus - elephant grass

Miscanthus' photosynthetic mechanism appears to be better adapted to low temperatures than that of many other C4 crops, equipping it for high productivity under relatively cool temperatures. At full maturity it can yeild up to 12 tons of dry material per acre (about fourth year on). There are higher yields being reported yearly. It shows great potential as a biomass crop. As with other bio-energy crops, the harvested dry stems may be used as fuel for heat, electricity or converted to ethanol.

Deer Habitat/Cover

Three planting methods seem to work very well for deer cover. They include hedge rows, field planting, and tight double rows.

The difference between a hedge row and a tight double row is: a tight double row is two rows planted 18" to 24" apart, with no regard for spacing of the rhizomes. It could be every 18"-36", depending on your preference.

Hedge rows can be planted with wide spacing to provide room for food plots and privacy screening. Field planting is primarily used to promote bedding areas. It seems that tight double rows are the preferred deer cover when you alternate the distance between the double rows - sometimes 4' apart, sometimes 6' - 8' apart.

Remember, every year these rows will expand approximately 4" in each direction.


The rhizomes are planted about 4" deep into a well prepared seed bed in the spring as soon as soil is workable. A little deeper if the soil moisture level is low. Europe has been working miscanthus for over ten years. They plant at one plant per square meter for establishment. Here in the U.S. we are planting at one rhizome per square yard - three foot plant spacing in rows three feet apart. That rate would require approximately 4,850 plants per acre. Row layout and density is up to the grower based upon a field planted to be lifted in two years (denser) or for establishment. Also, a field planted to match equipment already owned for cultivation could change row width and spacing. Good yields can be achieved on a wide range of soils but the key to high tonnage is moisture supply. A wide range of PH is tolerated but growth is best between 5.5 and 7.5 PH. Sandy or free draining soils only yeild well if rainfall is adequate so should be avoided if possible.

Miscanthus - Elephant Grass Sprouts

This is a crop that will produce for 15-plus years so consider your site selection carefully. Thorough site preparation, particularly weed control is essential to ensure vigorous establishment. Also, water the crop (if possible) following planting and continue to irrigate the first year if necessary. Weeds can check growth the first two years of establishment. Glyphosate based herbicides can be used in the dormant period between harvest and initiation of spring growth. Miscanthus is in the grass family like corn. Common corn herbicides- Dual, Atrazine, 2D, 4D - for weed control have successfully been used.

Fertilizer demands are low due to the plant's efficient nutrient use and its ability to pull nutrient back down to the rhizomes at the end of each growing season. Almost every year, decomposition of the leaves, rhizome nutrient reserves, and atmosphere deposition will meet the crops nutrient requirements. After the first year, only small quantities of nutrients will be needed every two to four years to help maintain good yields.


We mow the first year crop about six weeks after the first frost to let the rhizomes have time to pull nutrients back down to help with spring growth. We only cut early on the first year growth. Second year on, the free-standing stems continue to shed leaves and moisture during the winter. A late winter or spring harvest improves fuel quality by giving the cain a low mineral and water content.

Also, a large advantage of a late winter harvest is being able to harvest a biomass crop at around 15% moisture. Force drying biomass crops for storage and usage is energy intensive and costly. Methods of harvesting differ depending on whether the end user needs baled or chipped material. Energy end users will generally need bales. Also, bales allow the crop to further dry with no additional energy input.

Individual vs. Cluster Planting:

The main advantages of planting an individual rhizome is cost and use of mechanized planting. An individual rhizome in bulk offers a greater cost savings when planting large acreage. Planting one year old clusters generally require digging individual holes, which increases your labor cost. The main advantage of planting a cluster is that you gain one year to full establishment (height) -- two years instead of three.


Planting and Care Info

Miscanthus Rhizome Bunch

The individual rhizomes should be planted 3-4 inches deep, horizontally with nothing above ground. A well-tilled bed does help the roots establish quicker, but is not necessary. More importantly, adequate moisture and 60°+ ground temperature will promote growth. Do not worry so much about grass competition, but more so with broadleaf weeds that block sunshine - just during the first year of establishment. Second year growth will outpace everything.

It is not necessary at the end of year one to cut down the dead stalks. Neither is it necessary to cut down stalks every year going forward because the heaviest growth is always on the outside circumference of the cluster. Having said that, it does benefit growth to remove the stalks every year if possible.

Light fertilizer late summer/early fall the first year is acceptable, but not necessary, but the beginning of the second year growth and following years with help greatly. Anything you would be putting on your lawn would be fine. Next spring you can fertilize a little heavier as they are more established. We often go straight urea 40-00 because of the inexpensive volume of nitrogen the miscanthus just loves. We apply half a fistful on each cluster in the spring and that's it for the year.

Two rhizomes planted 18 inches apart will grow into one another the 5th year. Slower spread with heavy soil (clay) and a little faster spread with sandy loam. First year growth - 1-3 feet, second year growth - 6-7ft, and third year growth - full height (11+ ft).