Best Companion Plants for Karl Foerster Grass
Karl Foerster is one of the easiest, most fool-proof native grasses to grow. I tried counting how many are in my garden yesterday….& stopped counting at 15! You know you love a plant when you buy that many. And so far, none have disappointed…all have grown like gang-busters, on the smallest drip irrigation ~ making them great for drought-resistant gardens. New gardeners will love these fast-growers, which sprout so quickly (up to 6 feet per year), they can soon cover an ugly fence, or provide privacy from neighbors. Here, we’ll find some of the “Best Companion Plants for Karl Foerster Grass,” for all garden types…
Though I’ve paired my two Karl Foersters above with a different (greener) native grass between them ~ I really love placing them next to more unusual pairings, such as vibrant roses or hearty panicle hydrangeas.
Quick Overview of Karl Foerster Grass
- Other Names for Karl Foerster Grass: It can also be called Feather Reed Grass, or Calamagrostis x acutiflora. ‘Avalanche’ grass is another variety of Karl Foerster, as is ‘Overdam’ & ‘Eldorado,’ which is a more gold-green variegated variety.
- What Does Karl Foerster Look Like? Karl Foerster is a tall, wispy plant that resembles stalks of wheat, with its natural golden-tan coloring. Plumes can flower at certain times of the year, & change to a more purplish-pink color instead of golden. Healthy, well-watered Karl Foerster will also have dark green, grassy foliage at its base.
- Karl Foerster Hardiness Zones: 3-9. It’s particularly excellent in cold climates, as it’s one of the only things that looks “alive” during the snowy winter.
- Are Karl Foersters Annual or Perennial? Perennial. They’ll come back bigger & better next year ~ especially if you chop them down in late winter/early spring.
- Growth Rate: In my experience, with consistent watering: Karl Foersters grow extremely fast. Ones in pots will never grow as large as those in the ground ~ but my Karl Foersters planted in the ground have grown as much as 6 feet in one year! Ones that were cut back in early spring grew much quicker than those not cut down.
- Mature Size: Karl Foersters can grow 3-6 feet tall (though my neigbor’s look 7 feet tall!), & 2-3 feet wide, if given the space. Due to their fast growth rate, they make an excellent privacy screen, or can be used to hide a utility box, etc.
- Preferred Sun Exposure: Full sun to part-sun. For fastest growth, Karl Foerster should receive at least 6 hours of sunlight per day.
- Is it Easy to Grow Karl Foerster? SO EASY. Karl Foerster is one of the most low-maintenance plants in my garden. This is truly one of the easiest plants to care for: as long as it has drip irrigation (or is near a sprinkler), you’ll need to do virtually nothing to it ~ save for a cut-back in early spring. And the amazing thing is: Karl Foersters look good ALL year-round, even in winter, when most gardens look quite bare.
- How Much Water Do Karl Foersters Need? As long as your Karl Foerster is receiving consistent watering in its first year, whether from drip irrigation (using the smalles drip amount) or a sprinkler: it should do very well. It won’t survive with NO watering (I’ve tried this ~ it didn’t work), unless you’re in a very rainy climate. To establish a strong root system, it needs at least a few minutes of watering, at least a few times a week. After the first year, strong roots should help it withstand periods of drought, & it will require far less watering, while remaining tall & robust.
Best Companion Plants for Karl Foerster
In a Drought-Tolerant/Xeriscape or Desert Yard: In a drought-tolerant garden, it’s best to choose about 4-5 easy-growing plants, & repeat them throughout the landscape. In Garden Zones 3-9, Karl Foerster is a perfect addition, & can be used anywhere you seek privacy ~ to block other houses, fences, etc. Great plant pairings here include other native grasses, fountain grass, blue fescue, agave, cactus, Russian Sage, Muhly grass, Lynwood Gold forsythia, agastache, salvia, or lantana….& a few well-placed trees.
In an English Cottage Garden: Karl Foerster may not be the obvious choice for an English cottage garden ~ but if yours has a wild edge to it, or you’re going for a more natural look in certain areas: they’re a great addition. And with this style, which emphasizes exuberance: the sky’s the limit in terms of pairings. You can plant roses, climbing roses, foxgloves, delphiniums, peonies or tulips; purple plants like Russian Sage, salvia, or catmint; fellow shade-lovers such as azaleas, rhododendrons, or hostas; & tall arborvitae or smaller boxwoods. And don’t forget climbing vines! My Karl Foersters sit in front of a fence, which has Virginia Creepers, English Ivy, & honeysuckle vines growing over it.
In a More Traditional Garden: There’s a beautiful example below of a traditional home that uses Karl Foersters in a row, behind a row of low, green boxwoods, & another row of white roses. The look is clean, simple, & very effective. In a traditional style, you’ll want to use several Karl Foersters planted in a row together ~to create a streamlined effect.
In a More Natural, Wild, or Perennial Garden: My own garden combines English cottage with French country ~ with a side of the wild Pacific Northwest. Exuberance is the name of the game in my landscape, & I find that Karl Foersters provide exclamation points all over the garden (due to their height)….& they also create wonderful pockets of privacy. I’ve used them in a row to “hide” my patio from neighbors, & I’ve also used them to create hidden reading nooks. My favorite pairings with Karl Foersters are tall green arborvitae, dappled willows, roses, hydrangeas, other native grasses, catmint, & Russian Sage.
Inspiration Photos for Karl Foerster Grass
The Bottom Line on Karl Foerster Grass…
I think the bottom line here is: Karl Foerster grass can be planted next to almost anything, & fit in with the landscape! It’s one of the few plants that looks good in almost any garden style.
Read Next: How to Create a Drought-Tolerant Garden