The tawny flowers and foliage of Korean feather reed grass with Serbian spruce (Picea omorika) in the background.
Korean feather reed grass blooming in the sun with Russian sage in the late summer garden.
Most gardeners have seen, and likely planted, Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’. ‘Karl’ has become so popular that many plantspeople are looking for a little something different to spice up their designs and gardens. Enter Calamagrostis brachytricha, Korean feather reed grass. This clumping, warm-season grass also blooms in late summer, but its flowers are larger and more bottle-brush-like.
Korean feather reed grass has pinkish-tinged blooms with a subtle beauty and can provide a nuanced color echo to pink-flowered perennials such as Echinacea species and cultivars. The flowers of the grass age to a light tan and the entire plant takes on the hue of a straw bale in autumn, making it a star in the fall garden with asters, Russian sage and other perennial players. The grass’s flowers are also fun to touch. You can even feel this softness with your eyes when viewing the plant in bloom. Snip off some flowers for indoor arrangements or for a textural splash in autumn containers.
Korean feather reed grass prospers in part shade as well as full sun. Once established the plant is quite easy to maintain, possibly requiring a drink of water occasionally if planted in a very dry and sunny location.
Common Name: Korean feather reed grass
Botanical Name: Calamagrostis brachytricha
Color: Light green leaves throughout the growing season age to a straw, beige in fall
Blooming Period: Late summer plume-like flowers emerge pinkish and mature to a light tan
Type: Perennial ornamental grass
Size: 3 to 4 feet tall by 2 to 3 feet wide
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
When to Plant: Containerized plants can be planted throughout the growing season.
How to Plant: Root prune to encourage new root growth.
Soil: Average, well-drained to medium, moist soils
Watering: 1 inch per week including rainfall during establishment
In Your Landscape: Interplant with perennials for a textural contrast, where you can touch the soft flowers and hear the wind sighing through the leaf blades, for autumn interest and en masse.
From Wisconsin Gardening Volume I Issue IV. Photos by Mark A. Konlock.