Horticulture and Landscape Architecture

Hardy Plants for Waterwise Landscapes

Calamagrostis ×acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'
Feather reed grass

Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster' surrounding fountain (V.I. Lohr)

Plant form

Deciduous, upright, clump-forming grass. Very vertical in appearance.


Including flower spikes, plants are 4 to 5 feet tall. Clumps get a few inches wider each year; young plants may be 8 inches wide, older clumps may be 3 feet or more wide.


Blooms in early summer. Flowers rise above the leaves and are brownish-purple. Flowers fade to golden yellow. Seed heads persist and are attractive from summer through the next spring.


Green, arching leaves are 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide. They begin growing in very early spring. Leaves turn tan in the fall and winter.

Water use


Culture and maintenance

This cool-season grass begins growing in very early spring and does not go dormant in the summer if grown with moderate water. Will grow in heavy soils. Old flowers and leaves are typically removed in late winter or early spring, just as new growth is evident. If the seed stalks are left on the plant in the winter, they will provide interesting winter appearance. Snow loads will cause the seed stalks to bend to the ground, but most will pop back upright when the snow melts. Flowers are sterile, so the plant does not reseed. Insect- and disease-free.


Full sun for strong flower stalks.


USDA Zone 5.


Attractive vertical form provides a nice contrast to other perennials. This plant is great for screening. Children enjoy hiding behind it and peering through its leaves.  The Perennial Plant Association selected it as the 2001 Perennial Plant of the Year.
Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster' (V.I. Lohr)


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