Reed grass is an attractive perennial with arching green foliage and dramatic seed plumes starting in mid- to late summer.
Common name: Reed grass
Botanical name: Calamagrostis x acutiflora
Zones: 5 to 9
Size: To 6 feet tall
Family: Poaceae (grass family)
Sun: Full sun
Soil: Well-drained soil is best, but the plants tolerate a range of soil conditions.
Moisture: Drought and moisture tolerant.
Mulch: A layer of mulch reduces competition from weeds and conserves soil moisture. Organic mulches add to the soil's structure over time.
Pruning: If desired, leave stems and plumes standing in the garden for winter interest. Cut back plants to the ground in spring before growth begins.
Fertilizer: In most soils, the plants require no fertilizer. In very poor soils, use an all-purpose garden fertilizer in spring.
Division: Divide clumps in spring or autumn. For older clumps, you may need to use an axe, saw, or spade to cut them apart.
Fungal diseases: To deter diseases, prune the plants to encourage good air flow, avoid wetting the foliage, and mulch the soil around the plants.
Leaf spot: In summer or autumn, the leaves develop yellow or dark-colored spots with concentric rings around them, forming a bull's-eye pattern.
Powdery mildew: This disease appears in mid- to late summer. A grayish powder covers the leaves and causes them to drop off.
Rust: (especially cedar-apple rust) Leaves develop spots and small masses of rusty powder. Infected leaves die by the end of the season.
In particularly rich soil, reed grass spreads quickly, even though it's not usually considered invasive or especially aggressive. In fertile soils, give the grass plenty of room to spread.
‘Avalanche': Grows to 5 feet tall. Green blades have white stripes down the centers. Light purple plumes in early summer turn golden brown in late summer. Zones 5 to 9.
‘Karl Foerster' (photo below): Grows to 6 feet tall with green leaves and bronze-purple flower heads. Zones 5 to 9. Named a Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association.
‘Overdam': Grows to 5 feet tall with green leaves with yellow stripes and brown-purple flower heads. Zones 5 to 9.
‘Stricta': Grows to 6 feet tall with green leaves and bronze-purple flower heads. Blooms a bit later than other selections. Zones 5 to 9.