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Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora)

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Yellow Tinged

Yellow Tinged "Avalanche' stands an upright 3' tall.

Photo: © Marie Iannotti

Overview:

The Feather reed grasses (Calamagrostis x acutiflora) are cool season, clump forming ornamental grasses that bloom early in the season and remain upright and non-floppy throughout the growing season. Feather reed grasses are semi-evergreen, meaning they will retain their color in milder climates and weather.

Latin Name:

Calamagrostis x acutiflora

Common Name:

Feather reed grass

Hardiness Zones:

USDA Hardiness Zones 5 - 9

Exposure

Plant feather reed grasses in Full sun to partial shade. They will be smaller and flop a bit if grown in too much shade.

Size:

Varies with the variety. Generally feather reed grasses grow 4 - 6' (h) x 2 - 3' (w)

Bloom Period

June - July. Retains its inflorescence all season.

Description:

Feather reed grasses stand tall and straight and tend to be well-behaved clump formers.

Leaves: Narrow and upright.

Flowers: Narrow and upright. Slightly shaded yellow, white or red, changing to a buff color for the fall. The flowers are held above the leaves and persist throughout the winter.

Suggested Varieties:

  • Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster' - Green leaves, reddish flowers. 3-4' tall.

  • Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Overdam' - White variegated leaves, white flowers. 2-3' tall.

  • Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Avalanche' - Yellow variegated leaves, golden-brown flowers. 2-3' tall.

  • Calamagrostis brachytricha (aka Stipa brachytricha Korean Feather Reed Grass - A related grass which makes a nice alternative in partial shade. A bit less upright, but well-behaved. 3-4' tall.

Design Suggestions:

Feather reed grasses are very versatile, working well as specimens, in mass plantings and as a complement to the late blooming colors of fall.

Calamagrostis make nice architectural, vertical accent plants, especially in smaller gardens.

Because of their upright nature, feather reed grasses will created a lovely swaying screen.

Their compact clump-forming growth also makes them a perfect fit in containers.

Since Calamagrostis is fond of damp soil, it makes an excellent choice for bog-like areas around water gardens or even around swimming pools.

Growing tips:

Planting: Calamagrostis is an easy growing ornamental grass. It is propagated by division, not seed, so you’ll need to start with an existing plant. Plant at the same depth as it is in the pot.

Soil: Feather reed grass is tolerant of a wide range of soils and growing conditions, although a rich, well-draining soil with a neutral pH is ideal. It prefers a slightly damp soil and can survive even poorly drained soil. Once established, feather reed grass is drought tolerant. Calamagrostis will be a smaller plant if grown in a dry site.

Pests & Problems: :

Virtually pest free.

Caring for Feather Reed Grass:

Since Calamagrostis is an early blooming, cool season grass, it can be cut back in the fall. However it looks nice all winter and many gardeners prefer to leave it standing until early spring. Don’t wait too long in spring, to cut it back, or the new grass will start to grow though the old blades, making it difficult to shear without cutting the new blades as well. Cut back to about 6" from the ground.

The cultivated varieties tend to be sterile and set no seeds that could cause them to spread aggressively. They are also clump forming, rather than spreading by rhizomes. They will eventually need to be divided, generally every 3-5 years, to prevent them from dying out in the center. Divide in the fall or early spring. Gardeners in cold climates will have better luck dividing in the early spring.

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