Calamagrostis x acutiflora: Feather Reed Grass Information and Care

Feather Reed Grass is an ornamental grass with towering clusters of leaves. Why should you consider it and how to grow it?

Feather reed grass, an ornamental, can offer a dramatic vertical structure to a landscape, even in winter. Other ornamental grasses tend to arch outward, whereas feather reed grass forms thick, towering clusters of thin green leaves that send up erect flowering stalks in summer. 

Today, we will learn more about feather reed grass, its uses, and how to care for it.

General information

The first ornamental grass to win the Perennial Plant of the Year Award in 2001 was Calamagrostis x acutiflora Karl Foerster, recognized for its aesthetic appeal, long-lasting plumes, and low-maintenance growing needs. 

The average height for this compact cluster of green leaves is around two feet. Early in the spring, the stalks reach 6 feet and are crowned with elongated, wheat-colored seed heads. The plant forms a small cluster 2 to 3 feet tall and less than 2 feet wide. In early summer, flowers grow on 5 to 6 feet tall stems.

The heads of the thin, feathery inflorescences emerge green, then open to show fluffy, rosy-pink plumes. After a few weeks, the color gradually changes from dark maroon to bronze, then to golden brown.

This cool-season grass features brilliant green, glossy leaves that emerge early in the spring. The foliage becomes golden brown in late fall or early winter in colder climates. However, in moderate climates, the foliage will remain green.

yellow calamagrostis reed grass

Care and Maintenance

Feather reed grass adapts well to location, soil, pests, and diseases. Because of its low maintenance requirements, it is suitable for urban or container gardeners.


Feather reed grass grows best in well-drained, fertile, rich soil with consistent moisture levels. After it has established itself, the feather reed grass can tolerate droughts. 

As a cool-season grass, it may benefit from afternoon shade if grown in a warm, southern climate. However, too much shade can cause limpness.

feather read grass in the forest during sunset


Once mature, feather reed grass does not require much water. Young plants need frequent watering until they are established, but mature grass can withstand periods of extended droughts.

Watering once or twice a week is sufficient, but the watering frequency may need to increase in extreme heat. Water it lightly when the soil is dry an inch or two down. 


Annual pruning keeps the ornamental grass looking excellent while promoting the growth of new flower stems and leaves. 

In the early spring, cut it back to 3 to 5 inches to allow new growth to develop. Trim the leaves back in late winter or early spring. There is no right or wrong way to accomplish it as long as the old foliage is removed before the new growth starts. 

tall feather reed grass that needs trimming


Dividing this grass in the fall or spring is the simplest way to propagate it. No seedlings will ever grow in the garden because this cultivar is sterile. 

Large clump division in the fall can result in a good flower display the following spring. Smaller clumps require a second growing season for mature blooming. 

Landscape Uses

Because of its sturdy upright growth, the feather reed grass is a striking element to winter landscapes, especially when its plumes are left intact. It is effective as a specimen plant, a vertical accent, or as part of a mass planting. 

The grass’s graceful movement is an asset to any landscape. Put it where the afternoon light will shine on the seedheads for a dramatic effect. It can also be used as a rose border, a seasonal hedge or screen, or as container plants on patios.

This grass is suitable for both fresh and dried arrangements. Trimming stems before the blossoms can preserve their golden brown color in an arrangement for months.

feather reed grass used in landscaping

Companion Plants

Feather reed grass complements other perennials, especially those that bloom in the late summer and fall.

It looks best when given plenty of room, so don’t crowd it with too many plants. Consider using the kinds of perennial wildflowers that can be found on grasslands.


Coreopsis plants form upright clumps with multitudes of beautiful, dazzling daisy-like flowers throughout the summer. The species’ foliage varies in size and form, from small to enormous green leaves.

The plant’s round seeds resemble ticks, thus the common name tickseed. Birds and other animals like munching on the seeds in the fall and winter, while bees and butterflies are drawn to its vibrant flowers.

beautiful coreopsis yellow and red flowers


Echinacea is a Native American medicinal plant named after the prickly scales on its massive cone head, which resemble the spines of a furious hedgehog. It’s also known as purple coneflower and is one of the world’s most popular plants.

It has long branches, individual pink or purple flowers, and a central cone that is purple or brown. The oversized cone is actually a seed head covered in stiff comb-like razor spines.


Liatris flowers grow in tall spikes. Unlike other plants, the fuzzy, thistle-like blooms, which are often purple, unfold from top to bottom. The plant forms mounds of slender, grass-like leaves that can grow 1 to 5 feet tall.

The foliage remains green throughout the growing season before turning a lovely golden color in the fall and perfectly complements any floral arrangement.

purple liatris feather reed grass
Jeffrey Douglas
Jeffrey Douglas own a landscaping company and has been in the business for over 20 years. He loves all things related to lawns or gardens and believes that proper maintenance is the key to preventing problems in the first place.
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