Variegated Reed GrassCalamagrostis x acutiflora 'Overdam'
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Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Overdam'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
Variegated Reed Grass is a medium-sized ornamental grass that forms a clump of leaves 2 to 3 feet tall, topped with flower spikes reaching 4 or 5 feet. It has beautiful white edges on the leaves, giving it a bright and showy look. The fluffy flower plumes begin white, turning purple-pink and then beige, lasting into winter. It grows from early spring, flowering in June, and it’s ideal for cooler areas where maiden grasses don’t flower until fall. Grow it among perennial flowers, around woodlands, on slopes and beside water. It is also very attractive in planters and pots.
Full sun is best for growing the Variegated Reed Grass, which grows best in moist but well-drained soils. It also grows well in heavy clay and wet ground, as well as in ordinary garden soil that isn’t too dry. It doesn’t have any pests or diseases, and deer normally leave it alone. An annual cutting down between late fall and early spring is all the maintenance it needs.
Ornamental grasses have worked their way into our gardens so thoroughly that they need no introduction. Their unique textures are part of our modern gardens, and work perfectly in so many different garden styles, from formal to wild gardens. They have become ‘garden staples’, grown by everyone, and larger grasses that don’t spread are especially popular. Most of the larger grasses are ‘warm season’, meaning they make very little growth in spring, and are at their best in late summer and fall. This can be a problem if you want early ‘grassy’ effects, so that is when we can turn to the Variegated Reed Grass. This is a ‘cool season’ grass that grows as much as 5 feet tall when in flower, so its beautiful feathery foliage is effective from early in the season, with flower spikes pushing up in summer. It is especially useful in colder zones, where many large grasses don’t have a long enough growing season to flower at all, or do it only in fall. By using both kinds you can enjoy those waving plumes for so much longer, making this a vital grass for everyone.
Variegated Reed Grass is a perennial grass plant that comes into growth early in spring, during cooler weather, often showing by February in mild zones. It flowers by the beginning of summer, around June, and then sends up new leaves when cooler weather returns in fall. It forms a non-invasive clump of narrow leaves, growing larger but not spreading, and the leaves arch up to a height of 2 or 3 feet. The leaves are bright green, with a band of creamy-white along each edge. The bright coloring sparkles in the light, creating a bright and cheerful accent. The strength of the variegation is strongest in cool and dry weather, and leaves become more uniformly green during humid weather and warm temperatures, particularly when the nights are hot.
In early summer many tall stems grow up from the clump to a height of 4 or 5 feet. The upper part of these stems is a narrow plume of fluffy grass flowers, which begin silvery white, turning more pink, and then fade to a pinky-beige color, lasting into the winter months as an attractive feature. Birds will come and eat the seeds, including finches and other important wild species.
With its early blooming, Variegated Reed Grass is invaluable in cooler zones and climates, because it can be relied upon to flower, while other tall blooming grasses, such as the maiden grasses, often only flower very late, and sometimes not at all, in colder parts of the country. It is also valuable for early effect in all gardens. Plant it among shrubs, or in patches between the evergreens around your home. Create a grass garden by mixing together different kinds of grasses. Plant it on slopes, among perennial flowers, edging woodlands, or by ponds and water. There is nowhere in your garden that won’t be improved with the brightness and bold effect of this grass. It also grows well in planters and large pots, where it can be used to decorate steps and terraces.
The Variegated Reed Grass is hardy in zone 4, growing well in cool zones, and also reliable into zone 8, and in zone 9 in the northwest. Plants in pots can only be depended to overwinter outdoors well from zone 6.
For best results, grow the Variegated Reed Grass in full sun. In warmer zones or in very sunny states it will benefit from some afternoon shade keeping the soil cooler, but avoid planting in spots that have more than a few hours of shade each day, or growth will be weak. It grows best in moist, well-drained soils, but it is not particular, growing well in most soils that are not too dry. It will also grow in heavy clays and wet soils, but once established it is reasonably drought resistant, although it won’t grow much during periods of dryness.
Very little maintenance is needed to grow the Variegated Reed Grass, which is not troubled by pests and diseases, or eaten by deer. It simply needs cutting down once a year, depending on your needs. In areas with heavy winter snow it will be crushed, so it is best to cut it down in early winter, which is easier than in spring, and makes sure it doesn’t rot under the leaves. In warmer areas it can be left standing all winter, but remember to cut it back early, before new growth begins. If you see any plain green leaves growing in spring, remove them, along with the roots underneath them.
Variegated Reed Grass is a variety of feather reed grass, Calamagrostis x acutiflora. This plant is a natural hybrid between two European grasses, Calamagrostis arundinacea and Calamagrostis epigejos. These grasses are collectively found across large parts of Europe, Africa, Central Asia and into India and China. Where their distributions overlap, the hybrid grass is sometimes found. The most common variety is ‘Karl Foester’, introduced by the German nurseryman of the same name, in the middle of the 20th century. We don’t know much about the origin of ‘Overdam’, but it is believed to be a sport of ‘Karl Foester’, and probably also first appeared at a European nursery.
For many, Variegated Reed Grass is the best ornamental grass of them all – this is certainly true for gardeners in cooler parts of the country. That’s why it is always so hard to find stock, but we did it, and now we have it available. It won’t last long, so order now, and enjoy the beauty of this spectacular non-invasive ornamental grass.