Imperata cylindrica ‘Red Baron’, stunning red shoots of flame-like grass

Young imperata cylindrica shoots

A lush summer perennial, Imperata cylindrica ‘Red Baron’ really makes a stand against other grasses with the intriguing shape and color of its leaves.

Imperata cylindrica, a few key facts

Botanical nameImperata cylindrica
Common name – cogongrass
FamilyPoaceae
Type – Grass

Bearing – Upright mound
Foliage – deciduous
Height – 16 to 36 inches (40 to 90 cm)

Spacing – 6 to 8 plants per sq. yard (m²)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – Cool, well-drained but not too dry
Flowering – September – October, rare though

Planting Imperata cylindrica

To make sure your Imperata cylindrica ‘Red baron’ feels right at home, aerate the soil and lighten it up with either soil mix or compost. If the soil seems really heavy to you, you can also mix in a little sand which will increase drainage. Water thus won’t linger around for too long.

Actually, once it has settled in properly, Imperata cylindrica ‘Red baron’ will cope with drought much better than it will with flooding.

Caring for Imperata cylindrica ‘Red baron’

Grasses have the ultimate advantage over all other plants if you don’t like gardening: they require practically zero care. The only important step to perform is to trim the clump short at the end of winter. Usually, March is the best month to do so.

Special note of caution: if the area suits it well, Imperata cylindrica ‘Red baron’ may quickly turn invasive because of its prolific runners. Nonetheless, it’s not so difficult to control if you’re wary: simply pull running shoots out every now and then. In cases where the clump has grown too large for your taste, sink a spade round the center and pull everything outside of it away.

  • Destroy thrown out parts to make sure you don’t release it in the wild.

Propagating Imperata cylindrica

As is the case for many perennials, Imperata cylindrica ‘Red baron’ is an easy plant to multiply. You’ll quickly end up with a great many shoots.

  • Gather them from the mother plant, pulling the whole clump out with a spade.
  • The next step is to divide the clump. Make sure each portion gets both leaves and roots.
  • Then transplant your small specimens as reported above.

Diseases on Imperata cylindrica

Your ‘Red baron’ bloodgrass is almost invulnerable to pests and diseases.

Landscaping and pairing

Like flames in the windAlthough it doesn’t grow very tall, the ‘Red baron’ Imperata cylindrica will for sure fit the spot in your flower beds.

  • One option is to surround it with other grasses such as Chasmanthium latifolium or Pennisetum.
  • Another is to instead pair it with perennials like Cerstium tomentosum or bellflower.

Whichever option you choose, your I. cylindrica ‘Red baron’ will bring warm colors to your garden with its red hues and rare bearing.

Fun tip: edges and patterns with ‘Red baron’ cogon

This is an excellent plant to play around with as you landscape. Use a rhizome barrier to carve a pattern in the ground. As the plant spreads and grows, it will fill the pattern in for a surprising effect!

Similarly, use this root barrier technique to lock the grass in along edges lining your walkways or entry points to the garden.

Learn more about Imperata cylindrica

Apart from the striking looks of varieties such as the ‘Red Baron’ and the ‘Ruby’, cogon grass has other positive aspects as well.

Positive aspects of Imperata cylindrica

In its native territories, this grass has quite a few uses:

  • thatching – blades are folded around a slat of bamboo and tied there. Thick, wax-coated leaves make it rather durable for little effort. A cogon-thatch roof can last 5 years in warm tropical climates before requiring a total make-over.
  • medicinal – sweet-tasting and somewhat diuretic.

Smart tip about Cogon grass, Imperata cylindrica

This plant also has the name “bloodgrass”. Earlier, it was because of its red color. Now, since it is one of the world’s worst invasive plants, it almost deserves the name because it exterminates other native plants as it spreads!


Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Young Imperata cylindrica by Manuel Martin Vicente ☆ under © CC BY 2.0
Swath of Red Baron a few years old by Tauralbus ★ under © CC BY 2.0