B. Rosie Lerner
Purdue Extension


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Hakonechloa Grass Named 2009 Perennial Plant of the Year

The Perennial Plant Association (PPA) has announced that Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' its 2009 Perennial Plant of the Year. Also known as Japanese Forest Grass, this graceful, well-behaved grass provides color and texture nearly year round.

Unlike most other ornamental grasses, Hakonechloa gives its best performance in partial shade, forming a dense, cascading clump about 1-2 feet tall and up to 3 feet in spread. Its compact, weeping habit is perfect for softening the edge of the garden path, rock garden or container planting. Hakonechloa is generally hardy to zone 5 in well-drained soil, but will struggle in heavy, poorly drained conditions.

The 'Aureola' selection features bright yellow to chartreuse leaves contrasted by narrow, darker green stripes, though the color and contrasting becomes more subtle with increasing exposure to sunlight. The striking color contrast provides an excellent focal point for the shade garden.

Hakonechloa is a slow grower, requiring little maintenance other than removal of the dead tops before new growth begins each spring. Dividing is rarely needed but can be done easily in either spring or fall, if additional plants are desired.

The PPA selects a different perennial plant each year to promote throughout the nursery and gardening industry. Members of the PPA are invited to nominate plants based on several criteria, including low maintenance requirements, adaptability to a wide range of climates, pest and disease resistance, wide availability, multiple seasons of interest in the garden and ease of propagation. A PPA committee then narrows the field to 3-4 choices from which the members cast their vote.

Previous Perennial of the Year winners include the following.

 * 2008 Geranium 'Rozanne'
 * 2007 Nepeta 'Walker's Low'
 * 2006 Dianthus gratianopolitanus 'Feuerhexe'
 * 2005 Helleborus xhybridus
 * 2004 Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum'
 * 2003 Leucanthemum 'Becky'
 * 2002 Phlox 'David'
 * 2001 Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'
 * 2000 Scabiosa columbaria 'Butterfly Blue'
 * 1999 Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii 'Goldsturm'
 * 1998 Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus'
 * 1997 Salvia 'Mainacht' (May Night)
 * 1996 Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red'
 * 1995 Perovskia atriplicifolia
 * 1994 Astilbe 'Sprite'
 * 1993 Veronica 'Sunny Border Blue'
 * 1992 Coreopsis verticillata 'Moonbeam'
 * 1991 Heuchera micrantha 'Palace Purple'
 * 1990 Phlox stolonifera


Writer: B. Rosie Lerner
Editor: Olivia Maddox