Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Karl Foerster's Feather Reed Grass, Feather Reed Grass
Calamagrostis acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'

Family: Poaceae (poh-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Calamagrostis (ka-la-mo-GROSS-tis) (Info)
Species: acutiflora (ak-yoo-tih-FLOR-uh) (Info)
Cultivar: Karl Foerster

14 vendors have this plant for sale.

18 members have or want this plant for trade.

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Ornamental Grasses and Bamboo

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing the rootball

Seed Collecting:
N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

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12 positives
3 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive coriaceous On Jun 6, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

This is one of the most popular of ornamental grasses. It is valued for its vertical lines, its early bloom, and its tolerance of wet/clay soils. It's tough and highly adaptable, a clump former that isn't aggressive.

This is one of the earliest of grasses to emerge from dormancy, and one of the earliest grasses to bloom. The tightly vertical flower stalks rise to 6' in June, providing screening or vertical emphasis early in the season. I find they generally last till after Christmas, but snow can permanently topple them. Cut them back no later than early spring, to avoid cutting back the new growth.

It is winter hardy in Regina, Saskatchewan, Z3.

I find no authority stating that this is toxic when ingested.

This plant is sterile and will not self-sow---this is an advantage to the gardener. It is a hybrid (C. x acutiflora = C. arundinacea x C. epijejos).

In 2001, the Perennial Plant Association elected this plant the Perennial Plant of the Year.

Neutral jscaldwell On Jun 6, 2014, jscaldwell from Round Rock, TX wrote:

Two years in the ground and still anxiously waiting for mine to bloom. Hoping it isn't too hot here for 'em.

Positive Liz53 On Oct 5, 2013, Liz53 from Clinton, WA wrote:

I planted a dozen or so 1 gallon Karl Foersters this past spring as a temporary screen behind a permanent screen of loosely arranged wax myrtles as they established themselves. The KFs immediately sent up bloom stalks to 6' tall (perfectly fulfilling their purpose) and had a beautiful changing display throughout the spring and summer. Some have stayed relatively compact. Others, the ones planted within the reaches of my drip system have doubled, maybe tripled in circumference. They are starting to encroach on the wax myrtles, which also thrived this summer, and now (October) I will be relocating them to a new permanent location where they will again serve as a beautiful screen. I expect them, even with transplanting, to be even more satisfying next year.

Positive lindypuddin On Mar 6, 2012, lindypuddin from stony mountain, MB (Zone 3a) wrote:

i grow this beautiful grass in my mixed beds with shrubs and perennials manitoba zone 3a.
as my neighbor in saskatchewan says it is the perfect landscaping plant even in our areas. it has:

height of 5-6 feet with seed
stays in a clump, not invasive
vertical shape fitting in perfect in a mixed bed
needs to be in a moist yet well- drained area
fertilize well in early spring, it grows quickly
it's height and movement looks great through the snow
trying now 'overdam'

Positive marywalters On Feb 29, 2012, marywalters from Holland, MI wrote:

Because this ornamental grass grows narrow & upright, it softens (without completely concealing) the harsh lines of utility boxes that stick out like a sore thumb in your yard. Great for other low growing eyesores you wish to camouflage. I've seen it growing in my downtown area in very narrow spots around concrete as a hedge plant - so it takes heat & humidity very well. Gorgeous in groupings in a perennial garden. Pairs well with Sedum Autumn Joy and Perovskia.

Positive darylmitchell On Feb 25, 2010, darylmitchell from Saskatoon, SK (Zone 3a) wrote:

I inherited four mature clumps of Karl Foerster when I moved into my house. They are outstanding accent plants that look great from mid-summer until spring when I cut them back. They're valuable in the winter landscape, especially in a cold northern climate with many months of snow.

Its height provides structure and architecture. The sight of the grass swaying in the breeze adds movement to the landscape. The seed heads are tall and wheat-like, changing from a pinkish colour to a vibrant gold in the fall. Paired with perennials like purple coneflower, sea holly or globe thistle, they make a striking combination. The colour is retained through the winter and makes them a standout in the relatively colourless winter months. In the spring, I cut down the grass to about six inches tall. I save most of it to use in container for the next winter.

The one downside is that because of their height, they can get flattened by a heavy snowfall. Rain can flatten them a litte bit, but mine always bounce back up after drying out. Mine benefit from growing against a fence, which provides some protection.

Neutral petitesyrah On Jun 21, 2009, petitesyrah from Boise, ID wrote:

I have two groups of three of these. They are about five years old and get bigger every year. I'm neutral to negative on them because they do not stand up to any rain or wind. Once flattened by a single downpour or gust, they never recover. I have to cut them down because they are a flattened mess. I tried using peony hoops when they emerged this spring, but they are just too big and heavy. And sometimes the centers rot, making them grow in donut shapes.

Positive shelly80504 On May 29, 2009, shelly80504 from Longmont, CO (Zone 5a) wrote:

Looks good in all seasons. Adds vertical interest. Love to watch/hear the seed spike sway in the breeze. For a grass it tends to stay in its clump rather than spreading all over like some of them do.

Positive leelynne On Apr 27, 2009, leelynne from Dover, PA (Zone 6a) wrote:

This ornamental grass is great. I have 2 of these and they grow like there is no tomorrow. They even take transplanting well. I didn't know if you were supposed to cut the old reeds off or not so this spring I cut them back. Hopefully they will get new reeds on them this year. The reeds are beautiful and very showy. I love to hear the reeds moving on breezy summer days.

Positive Meig On Jul 13, 2007, Meig from Far Northwest 'burbs, IL (Zone 5a) wrote:

This grass is indestructible and will grow anywhere you plant it. It handles all soil types and the bitter winter winds on my property don't faze it.

Positive Gabrielle On Jan 25, 2006, Gabrielle from (Zone 5a) wrote:

I have it along a chainlink fence to hide the fence; it is the perfect height to provide a bit of privacy, but still be able to visit. I have it in a fair amount of shade under a maple tree, so it doesn't get as tall. My information says it is hardy in zones 4-9. Blooms June-July in my garden.

Positive bigcityal On Dec 10, 2005, bigcityal from Menasha, WI (Zone 5a) wrote:

This is a nice looking grass that stays in place and tolerates a wide variety of conditions.

Neutral tcfromky On Aug 26, 2004, tcfromky from Mercer, PA (Zone 5a) wrote:

This upright, arching grass grows 2 to 3 feet round with showy flower spikes rising 3 feet above the foliage. Green with red bronze tones turn golden in the fall. Good in meadows and open woodlands - it likes a rich moist sunny location and can tolerate heavy soil and heat with water. Good vertical accent plant.

Positive BingsBell On Aug 9, 2004, BingsBell from SC, MT (Zone 5a) wrote:

I am adding another positive for this great grass. It is beautiful, tough, early to start each spring and beautiful all winter long until haircut time. I have two beautiful clumps near my pond which is above ground 18 inches for me to sit on to play with the fish and keep my water lilies looking nice. The grasses make it look natural without hiding the pond.

I put this and the "overdam" variety in places all over. It stands by itself well as well as accents other beds. Use it to hide an ugly A/C or give a blank wall or fence some class.

Positive cbamrick On Sep 10, 2003, cbamrick from Green Bay, WI (Zone 5a) wrote:

This ornamental grass provides much-needed winter interest in my Wisconsin (U.S.) location. Its vertical growth habit provides an interesting backdrop for other plantings while doubling as a living wind barrier when planted in groupings. I am particularly delighted to see the number of stages the seed heads go through. Airy and open with a pink cast to golden and vertical. This has been an excellant performer for me in Green Bay, Wisconsin.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Anchorage, Alaska
Denver, Colorado
Longmont, Colorado
Glastonbury, Connecticut
Ocean View, Delaware
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Boise, Idaho
Chicago, Illinois
Hinsdale, Illinois
Spring Grove, Illinois
Washington, Illinois
Greenville, Indiana
Petersburg, Indiana
Portland, Indiana
Bardstown, Kentucky
Baltimore, Maryland
Ijamsville, Maryland
West Friendship, Maryland
Boston, Massachusetts
Reading, Massachusetts
Roslindale, Massachusetts
Ferrysburg, Michigan
Garden City, Michigan
Holland, Michigan
Ludington, Michigan
Cottage Grove, Minnesota
Kasota, Minnesota
Little Falls, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota (2 reports)
Perham, Minnesota
Billings, Montana
Fort Benton, Montana
Polson, Montana
Lincoln, Nebraska
Pahrump, Nevada
Los Lunas, New Mexico
Lockport, New York
Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina
Summerfield, North Carolina
Grand Forks, North Dakota
Cleveland, Ohio
Mogadore, Ohio
Richfield, Ohio
Portland, Oregon
Dover, Pennsylvania
Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Monaca, Pennsylvania
Roscoe, Pennsylvania
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
Millington, Tennessee
Austin, Texas
Round Rock, Texas
Sanger, Texas
Linden, Virginia
Mc Lean, Virginia
Clinton, Washington
Olympia, Washington
Seattle, Washington
Vancouver, Washington
Walla Walla, Washington
Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Green Bay, Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin
Menasha, Wisconsin
Pewaukee, Wisconsin

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