Ornamental Grasses – The Advantage of Yaku Jima Japanese Silver Grass over Shrubs as a Privacy Screen

When you want to put in a “border” whose main purpose is to hide your all too visible garden from neighbors (for whatever reasons) you might do well to consider Yaku Jima Japanese Silver grass rather than shrubs.

Unless you really know how a shrub will perform, you’ll have big investment of time (and maybe money) finding out.

Disadvantages of Shrubs

Even if the shrub you choose does well for you, they need time (sometimes many years) to grow to full size. Most shrubs need trimming and more maintenance than you might have time for. Also, they may not give you as many months of a privacy screen as your garden may require, depending on when they loose and regrow their leaves and/or branches.

Disadvantages of MANY Ornamental Grasses

Most ornamental grasses I would not be interested in having on my property.

Many (the majority that I’ve heard about) throw seeds in the fall that come up everywhere the following year. Believe me, ornamental grasses really hug the soil and volunteer grasses are not something you want to have to be taking out every year.

Also, foliage of many of the ornamentals is sharp and will cut you when they’re green and after they turn brown in winter.  Cutting them back, working around them, and handling the biomass requires protective clothing if you don’t want to get cuts.

A Superior Ornamental Grass

Fortunately, there’s a superior ornamental grass that

  • doesn’t cut you,
  • doesn’t throw seed,
  • is not invasive,
  • withstands a lot of cold without damage, and
  • is drought tolerant once established, and
  • lives for decades
  • and requires little maintenance.

The ornamental grass I use and recommend is Yaku Jima Japanese Silver grass. There are many varieties of Japanese Silver grass, but I would recommend only this specific variety.


These grasses make a great backdrop for any perennial you want to use.


The only maintenance the grass requires is being cut 6 inches from the ground once a year during late winter. It would probably make it through without cutting on occasion, but overall you’ll get the best results if you cut it every year.


If you cut it back the first March, it’ll grow the screen you want by April or May at the latest. So all except for one to two months of the year (when your garden is not growing yet anyway) you’ll have the privacy screen you want.


What a mature grass looks like in the fall.  (Center top of picture)

How You Could Lose It to the Cold

After almost 30 years of growing this grass, I didn’t cut some of the mature grasses as far down as I should have and lost some of those to the severely cold winter we had this past year. The younger grasses and the ones that I had cut back to 6 to 12 inches did just fine and made it through.

Starting New Grasses

I didn’t have time this year, but next year in early spring I’ll take a smaller clump and divide it into many small pieces and plant those along the property line where I want them. They won’t get really large the first year planted, but will make a pretty nice appearance their second year. By the third year they’ll be about 4 to 5 feet across and just as tall. With minimum care of cutting back, they’ll stay looking perfect for decades.


Close up of foliage of one grass in May. (left side of picture)

Final Thought

Yaku Jim Japanese Silver Grass makes a beautiful screen and gorgeous backdrop for almost any perennial you want to add in front of it.

It’s just about the perfect privacy screen.


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2 comments to Ornamental Grasses – The Advantage of Yaku Jima Japanese Silver Grass over Shrubs as a Privacy Screen

  • Toni

    How very beautiful. I have tried some various ornamental grasses. One of the varieties did not make it through its second winter, and the other one ( a beautiful variegated) is unruly and aggressively spreading. So I am so happy for your guidance. I will research this variety to see if it can survive on my dry slope and around my vegetable garden.

  • Theresa

    Toni, I’d be interested in knowing what you find when you research.
    I’ve found it difficult to find information on this particular variety or even buy it online.
    Not so bad for me because I know about it because I’ve grown it more than 30 years and can propagate it.

    As you know from reading TMG, we have drought in the summer and it’s especially dry where I use the grasses, but they always seem to thrive. Sure hope it will work for you as well because it’s a wonderful ornamental!
    Let me know.

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