Karl Foerster Fountain Grass – Easy Care, All-Season Beauty

Karl Foerster calmagrostis

Landscaping with grasses such as Karl Foerster fountain grass has become very popular with today’s homeowners. The ease of care and dependability have a lot to do with the popularity of grasses, but most homeowners say, “I just like how they look!” Grasses give a minimalistic, modern look to a property that pleases a homeowner. The feather reed grass, Calamagrostis acutiflora, ‘Karl Foerster’ started the grass popularity movement when it won the Perennial Plant of the Year Award. When gardeners realized ‘Karl Foerster’ was also sterile and would not seed or spread by runners they welcomed it to their yards. Now, ‘Karl Foerster’ fountain grass is the most popular perennial used in community commercial gardens! Welcome to the world of ‘Karl Foerster’ grass.fountain grass xeriscaping

Karl Foerster Fountain Grass – Easy Maintenance

There are many reasons that the look of ‘Karl Foerster’ fountain grass is so appealing. The erect, narrow stature adds a dramatic focal point with tall vertical lines. The unique clean freshness that this winning grass brings to the garden is another, and the winter beauty provided by this plant is unsurpassable.

Karl Foerster calmagrostis

Another reason that ‘Karl Foerster’ fountain grass is such a favorite in commercial and home gardens is that it is totally carefree and never needs staking or deadheading. It makes few demands for a year-long four-season performance. Calamagrostis acutiflora, ‘Karl Foerster’ is a sterile hybrid so there is never a problem with it dropping seeds. Its roots clump and stay put, never spreading and running rampant in the yard like some other grasses.

The only maintenance on this stunning grass is the spring “chop-job” of cutting the stems almost to the ground. Make maintenance simple by wrapping a ring of duck tape or twine around the stems and then slicing the grass off with hedge trimmers about 3-8 inches from the ground (see a demonstration video below by Watters Gardens).  Trimmings can be used as mulch for the gardens and nesting materials for the many birds the plant has fed throughout the winter.

The Seasons of Karl Foerster


Karl Foerster Fountain Grass in spring
Because ‘Karl Foerster is a cool-season grass its vibrant green foliage greens up early in the spring.


Karl Foerster grass summer
In mid-summer ‘Karl Foerster’ develops lacy stem tips.


Late summer Karl Foerster fountain grass
By late summer the stiff spikes turn into purplish- pink wheat like sheaves. The plant stays golden beige through winter. Notice how this ‘Karl Foerster’ fountain grass has been planted in an opening in a busy sidewalk as a focal point.

‘Karl Foerster’ fountain grass is versatile and can be used as a hedge to ensure privacy, or as a specimen planting to hide an eyesore. It fits nicely into narrow spaces and grows in full sun or partial shade. It is hardy and thrives in the higher elevations of the Rocky Mountains. Fertilizing ‘Karl Foerster’ at the same time as the spring turf is more than adequate. Too much fertilizer can cause the grass to flop. It’s often considered a drought-tolerant perennial but the more water it gets, the bigger it grows–just like lawn grass–so hold back on overwatering. This fine grass has no serious disease or insect problems and is very deer resistant. Overall, if a gardener wants a new, different look in their garden or a carefree perennial then ‘Karl Foerster’ is the answer.

Karl Foerster fountain grass

How to prune ornamental grasses such as Karl Foerster:

More about Nedra Secrist