Whenever the design of the ornamental garden calls for a decorative element that creates structure without dominating, Reitgras enters the stage. With a growth height of 60 cm, which stretches up to 150 cm in autumn with the enchanting blossom, it takes the much-vaunted ‘golden mean’ among sweet grasses. In small areas, the ornamental grass is often used as a representative key plant, while riding grass in large gardens harmoniously fits into herbaceous borders or fills tricky corners. At the same time, since all varieties of Calamagrostis only occasionally require care, they enjoy worldwide popularity among creative hobby gardeners.
Table of Contents
The species-rich genus of Calamagrostis is so diverse that the right riding grass is available for almost every site condition. The diverse range extends from marsh reed grass (Calamagrostis canescens) for wet, moor-like locations to country reed grass (Calamagrostis epigejos) for natural gardens to mountain reed grass (Calamagrostis varia) for dry, poor soils. As a result, no hobby gardener should be left empty-handed if he wants to plant this ornamental grass.
- Depending on the variety for sunny, semi-shady and shady locations.
- A tightly upright habit develops in a sunny location.
- Curved growth forms predominate in partial shade or shade.
- Best growth in fresh, humus-rich soil with a neutral pH.
- Light lime content is mostly tolerated.
It is therefore important to take a very close look at which riding grass it is when purchasing, planting and caring for it.
watering and fertilizing
With regard to water and nutrient consumption, largely uniform standards apply to the reed grass species, which are characterized by remarkable frugality:
- Only water repeatedly during the growth phase.
- Established riding grass is mostly content with the natural rainfall.
- Water only in case of prolonged drought.
- Spoil yourself with some good garden compost from time to time if necessary.
If riding grass is cultivated in a bucket, it regularly receives enough water so that the root ball does not dry out. If the substrate in the planter consists of commercially available potting soil, experience has shown that this is sufficiently pre-fertilized, so that liquid fertilizer is administered every 4 weeks from the 2nd year at the earliest.
Thanks to the feathery, airy spikes that appear in autumn and tower over the deciduous culms, Calamagrostis are also a feast for the eyes in winter. When the sun blinks through the ornamental grass covered with glittering hoarfrost or snow, the garden finally transforms into a dreamy winter fairy tale. Therefore, riding grass is not cut before the cold season, but only tied into a tuft. In this way, the inside of the nest is also protected from too much moisture, which could lead to rot. A thick layer of foliage piled up around the root ball also contributes to successful overwintering.
Since all potted plants are at risk of the root ball freezing through at low minus temperatures, the hobby gardener takes various measures to prevent this from happening:
- Place the bucket on a block of wood.
- Wrap the jar with insulating foil or fleece.
- Cover the root ball with leaves or straw.
When winter is coming to an end and the fresh shoots are getting ready, it’s time to cut back. Calamagrostis are cut to just above the ground. Before doing so, the experienced and environmentally conscious hobby gardener examines the eyrie for animal guests that may still be hibernating.
- Tie the riding grass into handy bunches.
- Cut off stalks and ears with a sharp cutting tool.
- Never cut into existing shoots.
- To protect against the sharp edges of the leaves, only work with robust gloves.
The clippings are disposed of in the compost. Chopped it is also ideal as bedding for animal cages or horse boxes.
Once gardening enthusiasts have come to know and appreciate the advantages of riding grass, they no longer want to do without the ornamental grass. Since the sowing of self-collected seeds is problematic and usually not varietal, they tend to the much more uncomplicated vegetative propagation by division. When the pruning is completed in spring and the ground is no longer frozen, the eyrie is dug up using the digging fork. With a spade or a sharp knife, the riding grass is divided into pieces, each of which has at least 2 buds. Without further ado, each segment is planted at the new location or in the bucket and watered accordingly.
Anyone who has been able to get hold of pure riding grass seeds in specialist shops and would like to prove their skills as a hobby gardener dares to sow. The level of difficulty is increased by the fact that these are cold germs. As a result, a cold period lasting several weeks is required to encourage the seeds to germinate:
- Fill seed trays or pots with a peat-sand mixture.
- Scatter the seeds, cover thinly with soil and moisten.
- Keep constantly moist in a bright, warm place at 18° to 22° Celsius.
- If there is no germination after 3-4 weeks, a cold stimulus is required.
- Expose the sowing to permanent cold around 0° Celsius for 5-6 weeks.
It’s too cold for the seeds in the freezer. The cell membranes would rupture from the sudden freezing, which the seeds cannot survive. The vegetable compartment of the refrigerator is more suitable. Since there is probably not enough space for seed trays or seed pots here, the seeds are filled with moist sand in a plastic bag. It is important to note that the sand does not dry out in the following weeks. As soon as the seeds germinate, they are put back into nutrient-poor substrate and gradually acclimated to higher temperatures. This means that they are kept at around 12° Celsius for some time as a transitional phase. When the seedlings have thrived so far that they crowd each other in the seed pot, they are pricked out and cultivated in pots in a bright, warm location until
plants in the bed
The riding grass you have grown yourself or bought ready-made is ready for planting as soon as the ground is no longer frozen in spring.
- Soak the root ball of the plant in water until no more air bubbles rise.
- In the meantime, loosen the soil thoroughly, pull out weeds and remove roots.
- A suitable planting hole has twice the volume of the root ball.
- Enrich the excavation in the wheelbarrow with 30% compost.
- If necessary, create a drainage on the sole if waterlogging is undesirable.
- Plant the potted riding grass just as deep as it was before.
Finally, the planting is completed by watering, so that the ornamental grass can grow quickly. If the surface of the potting soil slopes slightly towards the center of the eyrie, the riding grass can optimally utilize rainwater and irrigation water.
plants in the bucket
Since a number of varieties of Calamagrostis in pots on the balcony, terrace or at the house entrance set decorative accents all year round, they are often found in this culture form.
- The bucket has a minimum volume of 20 liters.
- There is an opening in the bottom so that rain and irrigation water can run off.
- The experienced hobby gardener lays a drainage made of gravel or potsherds over it.
- Well suited substrate consists of garden soil, compost and some sand.
Since the majority of riding grass varieties grow quickly and thus gain weight, it is advisable to place the tub on a plant trolley from the start so that changing the location does not become a problem. In winter, this also serves as protection against ground frost.
Varieties and their attributes
The genus Calamagrostis includes more than 200 different species that are distributed worldwide. By no means every species is suitable for cultivation in the garden. However, those that are an asset to beds and containers have been used by skilled breeders as the basis for enchanting strains.
Garden Reed Grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’)
- upright, deciduous culms
- widespread panicles of flowers in golden yellow
- Growth height up to 150 cm
- thrives in dry and moist locations
Streiftes Reitgrass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Overdam’)
- white-striped leaves and wheat-yellow flowers
- early flowering from June
- Growth height 80 cm to 130 cm
- prefers a cool, semi-shady location
Berg-Reitgras (Calamagrostis varia)
- Specialist for tricky situations
- thrives in any location, even under root pressure
- ideal for underplanting trees
- Growth height up to a maximum of 100 cm
Himalayan Reitgras (Calamagrostis emodensis)
- robust ornamental grass for the steppe garden
- fluffy, elegantly curved flower spikes
- beautiful spikes of silvery pink
- Growth height 60 cm to 90 cm
Diamant-Reitgras (Calamagrostis brachytricha)
- one of the most decorative riding grass varieties
- feathery, brownish shimmering spikes of flowers
- Growth height 60 cm to 100 cm
- erect in sun, arching in partial shade
- Suitable for any good garden soil and in the bucket
Reitgras ‚Avalanche‘ (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‚Avalanche‘)
- a rarity with white leaves and a green edge
- light brown flowers turn purple in autumn
- Growth height depending on location 50 cm to 130 cm
- a stable variety for normal to moist soil
Gartensandrohr ‚Waldenbruch‘ (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‚Waldenbuch‘)
- Compact growing variety for sunny locations
- Growth height 50 cm to 150 cm
- beautiful as a solitaire or in a group
- yellow-brown flower spikes throughout winter
Swamp-Riding Grass (Calamagrostis canescens)
- the ideal ornamental grass for the bank area of the garden pond
- light green upright culms
- slightly curved, violet spikes
- Growth height 60 cm to 150 cm
Purpur-Reitgras (Calamagrostis phragmitoides ‚Hartmann‘)
- thrives in semi-shade on moist soil
- Growth height 80 cm to 150 cm
- loose, reddish to violet panicles of flowers
- grasartige, sommergrüne Halme
Woolly Reed Grass (Calamagrostis villosa)
- the ornamental grass for acidic, nutrient-poor soils
- woolly hairy culms
- Growth height 50 cm to 120 cm
- grey-brown flower spikes in July and August
The inflorescences of all types and varieties have a wide range of uses in floristry, especially in dried bouquets. Decorated in a large vase, they add an autumnal touch to the home.
Whether as a waving sea of grass or a decorative solitaire; Reed grass brings abundance and structure to any garden. Even in winter, when nature is at rest, Calamagrostis adorn the garden with their feathery or delicately curved spikes. In addition, there is hardly a location for which no suitable variety is available. Equestrian grasses also do their best in tricky locations, such as on the bank of the garden pond, in dry steppe gardens and under shallow-rooted trees and shrubs. However, the ornamental grass is not particularly demanding in terms of care. A little compost from time to time, watering when it’s dry and pruning back in spring are the key factors.