Thursday’s Feature: Calamagrostis

Today I am joining Kimberley at Cosmos and Cleome for her Thursday’s Feature, where we look at a plant close up each week.

I LOVE this grass!


I only discovered it last summer, and immediately planted more. It is forming lovely big clumps and I would love to add even more later this year. Is that too monotonous, using one grass as a feature? Itย has pinky brown flowers that wave around in the slightest breeze, (it was very breezy when trying to get a photo!), creating the effect of a cool wind even when it is hot and muggy. I think it is the movement that I love most. Or is it the shape. Or the colour or the height. (About 1.2 metres). Or the fact that the slightest change in the light makes it change colour, like here…


I love the name too, despite having no idea how to pronounce it correctly. Calama as in calamity? … According to Wikipedia ‘The word “calamagrostis” is derived from the Greek word kalamos (reed) and agrostis (a kind of grass).’

It clearly loves the conditions offered this year: warm, damp and yet in a well-drained south-facing rockery with poor stony alkaline soil. We will see how it performs next year, if we don’t get as much rain in spring and early summer.

(Click on any image to enlarge)


I ordered both Calamagrostis varia and Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, but they both look the same to me now. Or maybe I was sent the wrong one, which would not be the first time… So any help with ID would be appreciated. Have you ever grown this beautiful grass?


Thank you for visiting!


30 thoughts on “Thursday’s Feature: Calamagrostis

  1. I have several Calamagrostis; they grow reasonably well for me but don’t reach their full height potential. I love the upright form once the flower heads have turned straw yellow (already happening here). Overdam is variegated but needs more water, it should grow well for you though and adds a nice light feature.

    • I wonder how long it will be until mine start changing colour. A variegated one sounds nice, but this one has really won me over. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Looks like ‘Karl Foerster’ to me. I’ve been using the plumes in flower arrangements at work. At home, I grow ‘Overdam’, whose plumes are a little lighter, especially when they catch the evening light. Can’t go wrong with any of the Calamagrotis, in my book.

    • Thanks Ricki! ๐Ÿ™‚ I find the pictures in catalogues and online are not only misleading but often wrong, so there is nothing like first-hand experience! Christina has also mentioned Overdam, somperhaps Inshould try and find some of those too.

  3. I am big fan of Calamagrostis and have a feature bank of three hundred xacutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ in my garden, all grown from divisions. KF quickly reaches a flowering height of 1.5 plus metres. Varia is shorter at 1.2 but is less usually seen for sale. Of the silver variegated forms Avalanache versus Overdam has the best colour, the gold form Eldorado is striking. Hope this helps!

  4. I have a couple of these – one variegated. Blooming right now next to the mauve poppies, it is lovely. Great fall presence, too. Pronounced: kal-a-ma-grawst-is ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks Eliza! I am so happy this grass flowers earlier than most and it is good to hear it carries on looking good into autumn too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Kate has me wanting a few of the other forms of this grass!
    Beautiful pictures, you’ve really captured the grass well. I also love this grass, and can say it is easily one of my top three favorites, so interesting year round and always presentable. It looks bare for two weeks after I cut it back in spring, but that’s all the downtime it ever takes.
    I smiled when I saw you chose this plant, I would have picked it sooner or later myself ๐Ÿ™‚

    • ๐Ÿ˜‰ You have good taste Frank! Yes, I think I will be trying to source the other ones too. I have realised I need more grasses in the rockery for more autumn and early winter interest. I am pleased so many people have good things to say about Calamagrostis in general as it was new to me.

  6. It’s a lovely grass and looks great with the Lychnis. I think that using more of it is a great idea (not at all monotonous). I’m a big fan of repeat planting.

    • Thanks Sam. ๐Ÿ™‚ I am coming round to repeat planting now, after seeing how the two grasses planted on the other side of the rockery really bring things together.

  7. I am not a grass person, but between you and Frank, I may be swayed! I have a stony bank of poor soil that receives sun most of the day, so maybe this would work out there. I’ll have to check its deer resistance, though, since the bank in question is very near their path across the back yard! At any rate, this is lovely, and I can the attraction of it blowing in the breeze. I don’t think it would be boring at all to have several clumps of it–it could act as a unifying feature that way.

    • I have no experience of deer in the garden so can’t help there, but I would certainly say it is worth trying. I love my other grasses too, as they add so much to the garden over winter… until the snow flattens them! I agree about the unifying effect – I have two more on the other side of the rockery and I think it might just be what I need to link the two sides even more. Thanks for hosting Kimberley!

  8. [D] Our favourite grass. Such a pity that, though Uist is the most amazing place for countless species of grass, we’ve been unable to grow this. It is very rapidly infiltrated by seeds from those countless species of grass, which then grow within the clump and overwhelm it. Some day we’ll travel to the mainland and visit some garden with Calamagrostis or other similar exotics, and run my hand along their lovely blades and feather seed-heads!

    • Such a shame you can’t grow it in your current garden. I am nonetheless happy to hear more positive feedback about this grass and do hope you will get to see some again soon! Thank you for commenting!

  9. A beautiful grass, Cathy! I’ve been so pleased with the two grasses (Pennisetum and Muhlenbergia) I’ve added to my garden, after years of staying away from any and all ornamental grasses. So of course I like your idea of more and more ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thanks for introducing me to this one!

    • Most pennisetums are not hardy enough for my garden, but I did plant a Muhlenbergia this spring and it is not looking happy… I may have to move it. Glad to introduce you to Calamagrostis – it seems everyone loves it, so hope you can get a couple as well!

  10. I have three of these in a relatively small garden, they are wonderful for 11months of the year, stand up straight, some grasses flop all over the place, and they only need cutting down in February.

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