Feather Reed Grass

Feather Reed Grass
Plant Type
Sunlight Amount
feather reed grass
Credit: Bryan E. McCay
feather reed grass
Feather Reed Grass

While other ornamental grasses tend to arch outward, feather reed grass forms dense, erect clumps of narrow green leaves that send up stiff flowering stalks in summer. That means this ornamental grass adds a stunning vertical architectural element to a landscape, even in winter. Industrial areas like street medians and parking lots often feature this plant because it’s easy to grow and doesn’t require much maintenance to retain its sculpted appearance. As an added plus, hybrid varieties of this grass (C. x acutifolia) produce sterile seeds, which means the plants can’t become invasive. What they will become is tall; with some varieties, leaves reach up to 3 feet tall, and their feathery plumes rise another 5 feet. 

genus name
  • Calamagrostis
  • Part Sun
  • Sun
plant type
  • 3 to 8 feet
  • From 1 to 2 feet
flower color
foliage color
season features
problem solvers
special features
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9

Garden Plans For Feather Reed Grass

garden illustration
Red Hot Sizzle Garden Plan
Simple Late-Summer Perennial Garden Plan illustration
Credit: Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke
Low-Water Garden Plan
Credit: Janet Loughrey
moss rose corner garden
Credit: Marty Baldwin
Easy-Care Summer Garden Plan
Credit: Illustration by Gary Palmer

Colorful Combinations

Feather reed grass's tall, narrow stalks look best mixed in among other perennials and even other grasses. When this plant's foliage first forms in the spring, the green leaves form small clumps. (The leaves of variegated varieties may feature margins, stripes, or centers of white or cream.) As the summer season begins, tall spires of narrow blossoms appear in shades of tan, green, white, and sometimes pink, depending on the variety. The narrow blossoms open slightly to become feathery plumes of seed heads in the fall that wave softly in the breeze—and look great in cut-flower arrangements. The plants will often hold onto the plumes past fall, which adds wonderful winter interest to a garden.

Feather Reed Grass Care Must-Knows

Feather reed grass is one of few ornamental grasses that tolerates moist to almost wet soils. This makes these plants a great option for rain gardens or boggy areas. Plant this grass in well-drained, fertile, rich soil that remains consistently moist. Once established, feather reed grass can tolerate occasional droughts. As a cool-season grass, this plant may appreciate some afternoon shade if grown in a warm, southern climate. Too much shade, however, will cause floppiness.

Because of its sturdy upright growth, feather reed grass adds a dramatic accent to winter landscapes—especially when its plumes are left intact. If so, prune back the foliage in late winter or early spring. Divide this grass in early spring, if desired, just as new growth emerges.

New Innovations

Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster' is a variety of feather reed grass, was named perennial plant of the year in 2001. Since then there have been further introductions with similar habits and the added benefit of variegated foliage.

More Varieties of Feather Reed Grass

'Karl Foerster' Feather Reed Grass

This Calamagrostis x acutiflora cultivar is the most widely available form. It develops a stiff 5-foot-tall column of dark green leaves topped by warm tan seedstalks.

Korean Feather Reed Grass

Calamagrostis brachytricha, which is also known as foxtailgrass for its plumes of seed heads in fall, needs more moisture than feather reedgrass. Cut the seed heads for use in fresh or dried flower arrangements.

'Overdam' Feather Reed Grass

This variety of Calamagrostis x acutiflora has cream-margined foliage that turns pink in late summer. Zones 4-9

Plant Feather Reed Grass With:

Aster, Symphyotrichum
  • zones: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
  • light: Part Sun, Sun
  • flower color: Blue, Purple, White, Pink
  • foliage color: Blue/Green
  • plant type: Perennial
  • height: 1 to 3 feet, 3 to 8 feet
  • season features: Spring Bloom, Fall Bloom, Summer Bloom
  • special features: Low Maintenance, Attracts Birds, Good for Containers, Cut Flowers
  • problem solvers: Drought Tolerant

Asters get their name from the Latin word for "star," and their flowers are indeed the superstars of the fall garden. Some types of this native plant can reach up to 6 feet with flowers in white and pinks but also, perhaps most strikingly, in rich purples and showy lavenders.Not all asters are fall bloomers. Extend the season by growing some of the summer bloomers, as well. Some are naturally compact; tall types that grow more than 2 feet tall benefit from staking or an early-season pinching or cutting back by about one-third in July or so to keep the plant more compact.

Sedums are nearly the perfect plants. They look good from the moment they emerge from the soil in spring and continue to look fresh and fabulous all growing season long. Many are attractive even in winter when their foliage dies and is left standing. They're also drought-tolerant and need very little if any care. They're favorites of butterflies and useful bees. The tall types are outstanding for cutting and drying. Does it get better than that? Only in the fact that there are many different types of this wonderful plant, from tall types that will top 2 feet to low-growing groundcovers that form mats. All thrive in full sun with good drainage. Ground cover types do a good job of suppressing weeds, but seldom tolerate foot traffic. Some of the smaller ones are best grown in pots or treated as houseplants.

Coneflower, Echinacea
  • zones: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
  • light: Sun
  • flower color: Purple, Green, Red, Orange, White, Pink, Yellow
  • foliage color: Blue/Green
  • plant type: Perennial
  • height: 1 to 3 feet
  • season features: Fall Bloom, Summer Bloom, Winter Interest
  • special features: Low Maintenance, Attracts Birds, Fragrance, Good for Containers, Cut Flowers
  • problem solvers: Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant

Purple coneflower is so easy to grow and attractive and draws so many birds and butterflies that you simply must grow it, if you have the room. Valued for its large sturdy daisylike flowers with dropping petals, this prairie native will spread easily in good soil and full sun. It is bothered by few pests or diseases. It's a great cut flower -- bring in armloads of it to brighten the house. And birds and butterflies love it. Allow it to spread so that you have at least a small stand of it. Let the flowers go to seed and the goldfinches will love you, coming to feast on the seeds daily. Butterflies and helpful bees also love purple coneflower.It used to be that rosy purple or white were the only choices in flower color. Recent hybrids have introduced yellow, orange, burgundy, cream, and shades in between.


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