Quaking grass – info, planting, care and tips

Quaking grass (Briza media)
Quaking grass (Briza media)

The quaking grass (Briza media) is a real eye-catcher in every garden with its delicate inflorescences. Here is how you can plant and care for this ornamental grass.

Profile of quaking grass:

Scientific name: Briza media

Plant family: grass family (Poaceae)

Other names: common quaking grass, cow-quake, didder, dithering-grass, dodder-grass, doddering dillies, doddle-grass, earthquakes, jiggle-joggles, jockey-grass, lady’s-hair, maidenhair-grass, pearl grass, quakers, quakers-and-shakers, shaking-grass, tottergrass, wag-wantons

Sowing time: spring

Planting time: spring to autumn

Flowering period: May to July

Location: sunny to partially shady

Soil quality: stony to loamy, calcipholous, low in nutrients, humus rich

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: flower beds, bouquets, flower meadows, ground cover, embankments, roof greening, group planting, underplanting, borders, flower garden, heather garden, natural garden, prairie garden, rock garden, forest garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 5 (-26 °C / -15 °F)

Bee and insect friendly: No

Plant characteristics and classification of quaking grass

Plant order, origin and occurrence of quaking grass

The quaking grass (Briza media), also known as cow-quake or common quaking grass, belongs to the grass family (Poaceae) and is native to Asia Minor and North America as well as Europe. In Europe, it is also found in the wild. Since the quaking grass prefers a very meager soil, however, it is also regarded as a lean indicator. The population decreases more and more because of the strong fertilization of the pastures. At the nature location it stands therefore meanwhile even under protection.

Characteristics of quaking grass


Quaking grass is a particularly long-lived, cluster-forming grass, whose leaf cluster can reach a growth height of 20 to 40 centimeters (8 to 16 in) and a growth width of about 30 centimeters (12 in). The flower spikes can grow up to 80 centimeters (32 in) long.


The linear leaves, about 15 centimeters long, are blue-green in color and form a dense tuft that remains winter green even in cold regions.


In early summer, from about June to July, pyramid-shaped panicles with heart-shaped spikes form on upright flower stems, which rustle and tremble in the wind. The egg to heart-shaped flowers first appear in purple, which turns to green and fades to a straw color by midsummer.


The fruits of the quaking grass belong to the family of caryopsis. Although they look like a seed, they are botanically classified as fruits. The fruits are connected with the glumes, a bract in the spikelet, like a balloon. Thanks to this characteristic, the fruits are easily spread by the wind.

Quaking grass – cultivation and care


The quaking grass feels particularly well in a light to sunny location.


Quaking grass can cope with a wide range of soil types. However, a dry to fresh, not too nutrient-rich soil offers the optimal conditions for this grass.


The ornamental grass can be planted from spring to autumn. To do this, dig a sufficiently large planting hole, slightly larger than the root ball, and insert the root ball. Fill the hole with soil and press the grass firmly around this. Then the plant must be well watered. You should water regularly until the grass has grown well.

Watering and Fertilization

As the requirements for the location already indicate, the quaking grass does not like wetness very much and also prefers a meager soil.

  • Only water during longer periods of drought.
  • In the bucket, the quaking grass needs a regular dose of water.
  • The grass does not receive any fertilizer.

That’s it as far as watering and fertilizing are concerned, so that in the local regions the average rainfall should be sufficient for the water supply of the quaking grass.


Once the quaking grass has withered, you can cut back the flower stems for optical reasons. In order to keep the leaves attractive until winter, the leaves should also be cut back slightly at this time, as this stimulates new shoots.


As unobtrusively as in the care, the quaking grass presents itself in the same way, if the garden friend seeks a propagation.


  • In spring, fill a seed tray or growing pots with nutrient-poor soil.
  • A peat-sand mixture with the addition of perlite is ideal.
  • Sprinkle the seeds on top and cover them thinly with the substrate.
  • In a light, warm place, keep only slightly moist for the next 14 days.

The germination rate will increase if the seeds are kept under glass or under a plastic bag placed over them at 20 to 25 °C / 68 to 77 °F. If it becomes too narrow in the sowing container, the time is ripe to separate the young plants into their own pots, which they then root through. From the middle of May the quaking grasses are strong enough to be planted outdoors.

Direct sowing

Alternatively, sowing is carried out directly at the desired location from the end of March. However, numerous garden friends report high failure rates due to wetness, ground frost and pests. Therefore, a pre-cultivation by sowing in the house or in the greenhouse is recommended.


If you are already the proud owner of a quaking grass cluster, you have the possibility to propagate the ornamental grass by division. For this purpose the mother plant is dug up in spring and cut into several pieces with a spade or a sharp knife. It is important to note that each section has 2 to 3 buds. These can then be planted in the new location immediately.

By dividing the grass, it is rejuvenated at the same time, which increases the vitality and life span of the plant.

Diseases and pests

Quaking grass is extremely robust against diseases and pests. Even snails show no interest in this grass.


Quaking grass is hardy down to -26 °C / -15 °F.

Use in the garden

Quaking grass is suitable for planting in varied borders and rock gardens and can be beautifully combined with yarrow, cranesbill or hawkweed. But also in heather gardens the ornamental grass looks quite graceful. The gracile blossoms of the quaking grass are particularly effective when the planting partners are planted with a little distance between them.


  • Briza media ‘Limouzi’ grows between 20 and 40 centimetres high and has strikingly large inflorescences, which are particularly suitable for cutting and drying. The flower appears from about May to June.
  • Briza media ‘Trembling Zebra’ has white-green striped stems and grows to a height of almost 40 centimetres. The flower appears from June to July.
  • Briza media ‘Russels’ grows to about 50 centimetres high, impresses with evenly white foliage and is a particularly vigorous variety. The filigree flowers appear from May to July.

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