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Feather reed grass

A group of feather-reed grass in flower.

Feather reed grass is a hybrid of non-native grasses.  It is a cool season grass that offers a very narrow, upright habit and interest in winter.  It is a clumping grass.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name:

Calamagrostis x acutiflora

All Common Names:

Feather reed grass

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Grass,
  • Perennial

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Massing,
  • Foundation,
  • Mixed border,
  • Screen,
  • Patio/sidewalk,
  • Container

Size Range:

  • Large plant (more than 24 inches)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8,
  • Zone 9

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Wet sites,
  • Clay soil

Season of Interest:

  • Early winter,
  • Mid winter,
  • Late winter,
  • Early summer,
  • Mid summer,
  • Late summer,
  • Early fall,
  • Mid fall,
  • Late fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Other

Shape or Form:

  • Narrow,
  • Upright

More Information:

Size and Form

This is a fairly narrow, upright grass.  It grows about 3 feet tall in foliage and up to 5 feet tall when in flower and fruit.

Plant Care

Best growth is obtained in a sunny site with a moist soil.  It is low maintenance as it is a clumping grass and does not produce viable seeds.  Tolerates heavy clay soils.

Although this is a cool season grass, it tends to act more like a warm season grass in northern climates and is most active growth occurs in summer.  It will remain standing in winter and can act as winter interest
Since this grass remains attractive through winter, it should not be cut back until early spring, before new growth begins.  At that time, it can be cut down to the ground.

Disease, pests, and problems

No serious problems.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Will not self-sow like many other grasses, so seedlings are not a problem.

Native geographic location and habitat

Of hybrid origin.

Leaf description

The long slender leaves are dark green in summer, turning tan to buff in winter.

Flower description

The tiny flowers are numerous and held in upright, fluffy clusters.  Flowers clusters open green with subtle undertones of silvery and purple.  Flowering time is late May into June.

Fruit description

The small fruit (caryopsis or grains) form along the upright clusters that held the flowers.  They start out golden yellow and then mature to a tan or buff color for winter.

Cultivars and their differences 

Avalanche (Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Avalanche'): This cultivar has varigated foliage (a white stripe in the center and green edges).

Eldorado (Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Eldorado'):  A variegated cultivar with green and gold stripes.

Karl Foerster (Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'):  A slightly more compact cultivar that blooms slightly earlier than the species.

Overdam (Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Overdam'):  Variegated leaves with green and creamy white stripes.  A more compact variety (3 to 4 feet when in flower).

Location of Calamagrostis x acutiflora (Feather reed grass) at the Arboretum

We do not seem to have this in our living collection.