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Karl Foerster Grass Vs. Overdam Grass (comparison)

Posted by Jacob VanOteghem

Karl Foerster Vs. Overdam

Ornamental grasses are like the shy kid at the back of the bus.  They often time—like the shy guy—get ignored when homeowners are landscaping because they are too distracted by trees, shrubs, and annuals (to continue the analogy…jocks, hipsters, and the pretty girls).  But guess what? That shy kid is awesome and so are ornamental grasses.  And that’s where this terrible analogy ends.

Ornamental grasses have the ability to fill many different roles in the context of a landscape.Karl foerster  They can be a centerpiece, a backdrop, add texture, soften hardscapes, create a meadow or prairie effect etc…  Most grasses are low maintenance and many offer multiple seasons of interest. Two commonly used ornamental grasses are Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ and Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Overdam.’ Both are commonly referred to as “feather reed grass.” Judging by their similar names you would expect these two to look alike, and you would be correct, but there are a few differences that you need to know if ever you have to choose between the pair.  

  1. The most significant difference between the two varieties is size.  Overdam is smaller than Karl Foerster: Height 2.5’-3.0’  Spread 1.5-2.0  vs. Height 3.0’-5.0’  Spread 1.5’-2.5’ respectively. 

  2. Next on the list are differences in appearance.  Overdam has variegated foliage and Karl Foerster does not and Karl Foerster’s bloom is a pinkish-purple vs. Overdam’s pinkish-green bloom. 

In June, both grasses produce flower stalks bearing feathery plumes that rise well above the foliage of the plant.  The flowers turn tan late in summer as the plant matures.  The foliage on these grasses also turns tan as winter rolls in.  These two varieties are sun lovers, can grow easily in clay-based soils (unlike many ornamental grasses), and prefer a medium to wet soil.

overdam feather reed grass plant david


There are some other benefits to having ornamental grasses in your yard or garden that you might not think of off the top of your head. One, they offer a home/building material to wildlife.  If bird watching has some appeal to you, planting grasses is a good way to attract a few feathered friends to your home.  Grasses also have a very calming look and sound.  When a gentle breeze moves through its blades, a relaxing rustle will put your mind at ease, and your eyes will be attracted to the wave-like motion of the plant.  If these aesthetically appealing reasons aren’t enough to convince you that ornamental grasses are a good addition to your landscape, I offer these more practical points.  Ornamental grasses (Karl Foerster and Overdam included) are an ecologically sound choice.  They are drought resistant, require very little maintenance, and are pest and disease free.

Tags: Plants, Perennials