Plant Profile - Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass
Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster' - Feather Reed Grass
This plant is a favorite for our projects for a variety of reasons.
It has multiple seasons of interest. In late March / early April it starts to grow and quickly forms a strong base of leaves. By early summer it has bloomed forming tall blonde stems and sterile seed heads which then persist right through the winter. They can often be seen in the winter poking through the snow coated in frost or if we have a brown winter, adding a subtle splash of color and texture.
It is very hardy and not too fussy about exposure or soil although it won’t grow very well in shade. It does not produce seed (the flowers are sterile) and it is bunch forming, meaning it stays put. It is usually untroubled by deer and rabbits.
From a design perspective, it provides a long season of interest, as noted, but it also provides a strong vertical accent in the garden and can even be used to provide some privacy in some situations. The strong vertical lines contrast well with the typically softer textures of most other garden plants. They are equally at home in a modern contemporary landscape and a classic perennial border.
‘Avalanche’ and ‘Overdam’ are variegated varieties, and are good where more contrast or variety is desired.
Care and feeding: Feather Reed Grasses are about as low maintenance a plant as you can ask for. In the early spring (mid-March to early April) cut back the tops to leave about 4 to 6” of stubble to protect the crown. Almost before the ground has thawed new growth will begin to shoot out to begin a new season of glory. If you have good garden soil no additional fertilizer is necessary although a top dressing of compost in the spring or fall will maintain their health. When the plants start to lose vigor, or open up in the center they can be lifted and divided in the spring or fall. Feather Reed Grass won’t require any additional watering once established but will benefit from good soak in a prolonged hot dry stretch of summer weather.