The possible uses of reeds cover an enormous range. They are just as much a natural part of the unspoilt cottage garden as they are of the idealized natural landscape of a Japanese garden. Learn how to propagate reeds in this guide. We also introduce you to different types of reed.
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Reed is not only an eye-catcher in the garden, but is often used as a privacy screen or as a border around a pond. There is a suitable variety of reed grass available for almost every imaginative design idea, because there are aesthetic manifestations in abundance, from filigree to imposing. Even in winter, reed in the garden does not cause sadness, because with the right treatment, the robust sweet grass can withstand even frost and snow. The following tips on care, pruning and disposal would like to contribute to the successful cultivation of these versatile plants in the garden.
As different as the reed varieties may appear in their habit; the demands regarding their care are largely uniform:
- Best growth in a sunny to partially shaded location.
- moist, well-drained soil quality is preferred.
- only a few varieties like to stand in dry soil.
- water sufficiently, especially in the growth phase.
- pull weeds regularly.
- Work garden compost into the soil in spring.
- Stable manure is unsuitable and attacks the roots.
- Alternatively, administer a single dose of complete fertilizer.
- Do not fertilize in the first year of planting.
- Winter protection not required.
With good care, diseases and pests don’t stand a chance with reeds in the garden. Defense measures against slugs should only be taken in the case of freshly planted reeds, such as a moving barrier, a slug collar or the distribution of slug pellets.
Well-considered cutting is an essential part of the successful care of reeds in the garden. Basically, reeds are only cut in spring and never in autumn. Anyone who hastily grabs the secateurs not only robs his garden of attractive winter decorations, but also exposes the grass to the risk of rot because water can get into the shortened tuft unhindered. Experienced hobby gardeners proceed in the following steps when cutting the reeds:
preparation in the fall
Shortly before winter, the reeds in the garden and in the bucket are tied together. In this way, not only is the decorative look preserved during the cold season, but the reed grass also serves as a protective winter quarters for various useful small animals in the garden. The dense foliage of the reed also protects the roots from frost and snow.
Cut in spring
Shortly before the new shoots in spring, it’s time to get out the hedge trimmers. By this time, the animal winter guests have already left the quarters. The pruning is radical to just above the ground. As the edges of the grass can be razor sharp, wearing work gloves is essential. Young plants are shortened by up to 10 cm in the first two years. Older reeds are cut back by at least 20 cm. Under no circumstances should the young shoots already be growing. Cutting into this will cause unpleasant brown spikes that can be seen year-round. If, for any reason, the right time for pruning is missed, it is better to skip pruning for that year altogether.
In the course of the pruning in the spring, it is advisable to check the root system closely. Should the clumps or rhizomes spread too much and take on unwanted proportions, this is the ideal time to cut off individual parts with the spade, including the roots.
Given the numerous advantages that reeds offer in the garden, it cannot be overlooked that the majority of species and varieties tend to spread at a speed that is almost terrific for plants. During the main growth period, it is not uncommon for rhizomes to grow up to 3 cm a day. Foothills of reed grass have already been discovered with a length of 20 meters. Therefore, getting rid of reeds in the garden can cause major problems, especially if the plant is several years old. If you take this fact into account when planting reeds, you can make their removal noticeably easier – if you ever want it:
Plant reeds with root barriers
Experienced hobby gardeners always plant reed grass with a root or rhizome barrier. This is either a stable pot, e.g. made of concrete, or a waterproof, non-rotting geotextile that is laid vertically around the root ball to a depth of 50 cm. The use of a plant pot for the purpose of containing reeds, however, is discussed controversially among gardeners. It must not be too small, because then it will inhibit the growth of the reed. There must also be water holes to prevent waterlogging. These holes, in turn, are quickly used as a loophole by the rampant rhizomes.
A rhizome barrier, on the other hand, gives the reed enough space to develop without proliferating in undesirable directions. If it is then necessary to remove the plant , the spread area remains at least manageable. To remove it, it is usually sufficient to completely dig up or dredge the reeds within the geotextile. In addition, the following elimination methods have proven themselves, some of which require a lot of patience over weeks, months and even years:
- Cut off the inflorescence immediately after flowering.
- Tear out individual reed grasses with their roots before the seeds have ripened.
- under older layer of mulch extraction is slightly easier.
- Mow larger areas deeply again every year in May and August.
- Repeat measures until the reed tires.
- Never compost clippings.
- Clean tools, because the smallest bits of root will sprout again.
- Use Roundup weed killer.
- Cut the reed as low as possible.
- cover with black pond liner or weed fleece and soil.
- after a year digging up is much easier.
Burning off the visible part of the reeds does not help to remove it from the garden, but rather has the opposite effect. The reeds will sprout and proliferate even more than before.
Trenches for removing reeds in the garden
If the vegetative invasion has already taken place, a mechanical method of destroying reeds in the garden, which is associated with a high trim-you effect, is the talk of the town. Trenching is a deep loosening of the soil using a spade:
- mow the reeds as far as possible.
- dig a trench across the working area.
- depth of the trench is two spade blades.
- remove all roots from the first excavation using a throw-through sieve.
- Pile up the excavated material on the side of the area that is not to be worked.
- dig the next trench in the forward direction.
- Thoroughly remove all roots from the excavation.
- fill the rear ditch with this earth.
Arriving at the end of the spreading area of the reeds, the last trench is filled with the cleaned excavation from the first trench. The sorted out rhizomes should not be put on the compost. They are either disposed of with household waste or, in regions where legal regulations allow, they are first dried and then burned.
Popular reed varieties
The reed plant species from the sweet grass family, generally just called reed, can be found not only in the wild, but also in many private gardens. In the following, some beautiful and popular varieties are presented, above all the well-known Chinese reed, which can be discovered in numerous variations:
Miscanthus oligostachyus ‚Nanus Variegatus‘ – Chinaschilf
- short-growing variety with a height of 40 cm to 60 cm
- very suitable for container planting
- early flowering July to August
- Flower color silver
- beautiful fall color
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Adagio’ – dwarf Chinese reed
- Growth height 100 cm to 150 cm
- decorative flowering September and October
- ideal for small gardens
- Suitable for buckets from 20 liters
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Queen Ingrid’ – Halbhohes Chinaschilf
- Growth height 110 cm to 150 cm
- dark red flowers August to October
- perfectly hardy
Miscanthus sinensis ‚Flamingo‘ – Chinaschilf
- Growth height 120 cm to 170 cm
- filigree leaves and pink flowers
- long flowering from August to October
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Big Fountain’ – Chinese reed
- Growth height up to 250 cm
- silvery-pink shimmering panicles of flowers
- long, curved leaves
- popular solitary plant
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silberturm’ – Chinese reed
- steep, upright growth up to 300 cm
- silver-pink flowers from September to October
- takes up a lot of space in the garden
- Growth height up to 280 cm
- decorative blue-green foliage color
- Flowering period August to September
- Flower color rusty red
- important reclamation plant
Phragmites australis ‚Variegatus‘ – Schilfrohr
- Growth height up to 150 cm
- yellow-green striped leaves
- commonly used in water purification
- the ‘cosmopolitan’ among the reeds
- thrives in sun and shade
- less dominant than the conspecifics
Reed is one of the most important reposition plants for the natural cleaning of the water in swimming ponds and easily flowing waters. In addition, it is often used when the renaturation of the site is tackled after the end of an opencast mine.
If you keep the reed grass’s urge to spread in check from the start, you might want to plant the decorative sweet grasses in other parts of the garden. There are two different methods of propagation to choose from:
Propagation by division is uncomplicated and quickly successful. The best time to do this is spring, right after pruning. A piece of root, including the shoots, is removed from a strong reed either with a knife or a spade. This part can immediately be planted in the desired spot in the garden, exactly as deep as it was previously in the ground.
In summer, non-blooming stems that have 3 to 4 nodes are cut off with a sharp knife. If they are placed in a pot with conventional potting soil and kept sufficiently moist, the stem nodes will root within a few weeks.
Although reeds also propagate from seeds in the wild, most experts advise against it because this procedure is much more complex than dividing it.
Its hallmarks are long, arching culms and gorgeous, feathery buds that sway in the wind. With reeds in the garden, the hobby gardener sets unmistakable accents as well as decorative privacy and wind protection in sunny to partially shaded locations. As a member of the sweet grass plant family, reed is widespread all over the world and, thanks to its resilience, adapts to almost any climate. With proper care, which includes regular trimming, reeds will grace the garden for many years. If the remarkable vigour, especially of the rhizomes, is taken into account when planting, it is not difficult to remove if necessary. If the reeds in the garden have already taken over, muscle power is required if they are to disappear again.