Feather Reed Grass

feather reed grass
Bryan E. McCay.

Feather Reed Grass Overview

Description 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
Common Name Feather Reed Grass
Plant Type Perennial
Light Part Sun, Sun
Height 3 to 8 feet
Width 1 to 2 feet
Flower Color Green, Pink, White
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Colorful Fall Foliage, Summer Bloom, Winter Interest
Special Features Cut Flowers, Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Division, Seed
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant, Good For Privacy

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.

Explore more perks of planting ornamental grasses in your 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.

See our top ornamental grasses here.

New Innovations

Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster' is a variety of feather reed grass that 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.

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