Porcupine Grass vs. Zebra Grass

Written by Larissa Smith
Updated: August 4, 2023
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Should you use porcupine grass or zebra grass to give your garden a more elegant and poised look? It’s not hard to see why these two types of grass have been in high demand for the past few years. With long stems and stripes in ivory, these grasses lend your garden a more ethereal feel and will help you make your landscaping dreams a reality. The trick question is, which ornamental grass should you propagate for your property?

Porcupine grass is an ornamental grass that can grow up to 9 feet tall. Long straight stems and narrower, stiff leaves decorated with horizontal stripes provide any landscape with a unique and bold look.

Zebra grass, unlike its cousin, grows with a sweeping arch. It gets its name from the ivory stripes that line the seam of the leaf. The leaves and stems of zebra grass contrast the porcupine grass with softness and flexibility. The flexibility of the leaves allows them to have an arching or swooping effect, providing your landscape with a mystical feature.

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Comparing Porcupine Grass and Zebra Grass

Porcupine GrassZebra Grass
ClassificationKingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Sub-Family: Panicoideae
Genus: Miscanthus
Species: M. Sinensis ‘Strictus’
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Sub-Family: Panicoideae
Genus: Miscanthus
Species: M. Sinensis ‘Zebrinus’
Description· Hard texture
· Pointy edges
· Horizontal stripes of color
· Grow up to 9 feet tall
· Copper and bronze flowers bloom in the summer
· Leaves bend and droop toward the ground
· Grows in clumps
· Leaves have horizontal, ivory stripes
· Grow up to 7 feet tall with a 5-foot spread
How to Grow· Use moist, well-draining soil
· Prefers full sunlight for 6 hours a day and partial shade
· Prune in early spring and remove dead foliage
· Water three times per week
· Soil pH between 6.8-7.7
· Grow in moist, well-fertilized soil
· Plant 4-5 feet apart
· Prefer full sunlight
· Neutral soil pH

Porcupine Grass vs. Zebra Grass: Classification and Origin

The porcupine grass (Strictus) and the zebra grass (Zebrinus) are cultivars of the same species, meaning that both plants have many overlapping qualities, including their origin. As a result, they look similar, but there are noticeable differences in their flowers and leaves.

Porcupine and zebra grass originate from Asian regions, such as Japan, China, and Taiwan. These plants can be used as decoration and are known as invasive species if not monitored and pruned correctly. The difference between these plants is in the growth pattern of the leaves and the flowers these plants produce.

Porcupine grass has grass stems or leaves that are narrow and stiff, making the leaves stand upright and grow in a straight direction. In contrast, zebra grass has leaves and stems that are more flexible and thus allow the grass to grow in an arch.

Porcupine Grass vs. Zebra Grass: Description

Porcupine Grass

Planting porcupine grass will give a more ornamental appearance to a landscape or garden. It is a clear favorite amongst those looking to add a slightly edgier look while maintaining a garden with an air of elegance. Plain horizontal stripes that come in varying shades of white-yellow to deep yellow allow this plant to look fabulous no matter which season it is.

Porcupine grass gets its name from the leaves straight and almost pointy-looking edges. This grass has a narrower leaf, which makes the stem and leaf grow straight up and have a hard texture. The horizontal stripes of color on the leaf clumps give the plant a similar appearance to that of a porcupine. Porcupine grass is low maintenance and can grow up to 9 feet tall!

Porcupine grass often blooms flowers in the late summer with hues of copper and bronze. When the flowers of porcupine grass bloom, it gives it an appearance similar to that of little embers glowing in your garden. However, unlike its prickly name, the porcupine grass is less likely to hurt you and is frequently used to add an ornamental element to your garden.

Close up group of tall porcupine grass in a field.

Porcupine grass (pictured) and zebra grass are low maintenance and thrive in sunlight.

©M. Schuppich/Shutterstock.com

Zebra Grass

Zebra grass is so flexible that as it grows, the leaves bend and ‘droop’ toward the ground providing your garden with a beautiful visual contrast to the average garden. It is a great way to make your garden stand out without having to do a lot of maintenance. They are easy to grow and resistant to pests and diseases. They can reach up to 7 feet tall and have a 5-foot spread.

Zebra grass is also an ornamental grass that grows in clumps, and the leaf has horizontal stripes in varying shades of ivory along the arching and almost drooping appearance of the leaves. The horizontal shades of ivory resemble the white stripes of the graceful zebra, and that is where the plant gets its name.

Group of drooping zebra grass.

Both porcupine grass and zebra grass (pictured) are excellent choices for ground cover in landscaping.


Porcupine Grass vs. Zebra Grass: How to Grow

Growing Porcupine Grass

Porcupine grass is relatively easy to grow as long as its basic needs get met. To successfully propagate a beautiful thicket of porcupine grass, you should do the following:

  • Use moist, well-draining soil
  • Prefers full sunlight for 6 hours a day and partial shade
  • Prune in early spring and remove dead foliage
  • Water three times per week
  • Soil pH between 6.8-7.7

Porcupine grass does bloom in the late summer, so you can expect your garden to blossom with varying degrees of color once summer comes around. From the copper color and white/pink hues, the porcupine grass flowers perfectly represent summer colors.

Growing Zebra Grass

Zebra grass grows in similar conditions to porcupine grass. Therefore, to keep your grass growing healthy and in good condition, you should adhere to the following:

  • Grow in moist, well-fertilized soil
  • Plant 4-5 feet apart
  • Prefer full sunlight
  • Neutral soil pH

It is important to note that since both plants originate in Asian regions, the porcupine and zebra grass grow better in high-temperature climates.

Porcupine Grass vs. Zebra Grass: Uses

Porcupine and zebra grass are ornamental plants for borders or mass plantings. It’s also used as a border plant in lawns and gardens since it doesn’t compete with other plants for water or nutrients. In addition, it’s often used as a ground cover because it grows so quickly and thickly, creating an instant covering without having to worry about weeds growing between your plants.

Porcupine grass is one of the most versatile and hardy lawns you can grow, but it’s also one of the most overlooked. Why? Because it looks like a weed and grows like one, too. You’ll need to be diligent in caring for porcupine grass, but once you establish it, it’ll be there for you for years to come.

Zebra grass has many uses beyond just being pretty to look at. Many people use it because of its ability to create beautiful patterns in their landscapes. It also makes a great plant for container gardens because of its low maintenance requirements. In addition to being attractive to look at, zebra grass is also good for wildlife because it attracts butterflies and birds.

Final Thoughts

Indulging yourself and all of your gardening needs has never been easier. Using zebra and porcupine Grass is a relatively inexpensive and quick way to personalize your garden without going overboard.

Truthfully, it is not always easy to come up with unique ways to landscape your property that won’t hurt the bank. But in this case, propagating porcupine and zebra grass is the perfect way to make your garden look more appealing without costing an ‘arm and a leg.’

Create a garden where you can fully immerse yourself in nature without leaving the comforts of your home. Expand your horizons and give your garden a more exotic and ornamental look with the addition of these two cultivars.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Kristine Rad/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Larissa Smith is a writer for A-Z Animals with years of experience in plant care and wildlife. After years spent in the South African bush while studying Nature Conservation, she found her way to writing about animals and plants in her work. She hopes to inspire others to appreciate and care for the precious world around them. Larissa lives in Florida with her two sons, a miniature golden retriever named Pupples, and a colorful succulent garden. In her spare time, she is tending to her garden, adventuring with her kids, and hosting “Real Housewives” watch parties with her friends.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How fast does porcupine grass grow?

When watering your grass twice a week, you can see them reach maturity within 3 months.

Is porcupine grass a perennial?

Porcupine grass is a herbaceous perennial.

How tall does zebra grass get?

They can grow between 6-7 feet tall with a 5-foot spread.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

  1. FSGATE, Available here: https://homeguides.sfgate.com/difference-between-porcupine-grass-zebra-grass-77798.html
  2. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miscanthus_sinensis