Architectural plants with interesting texture for your garden? “Restios?” Hmmm. What’s a restio? If you’v never heard of them, you’re not alone! But like recent posts, if you’re looking for new plants to know for garden/planting design, then these 3 restios are worth knowing! To keep it simple, restios are grass-like or rush-like perennials.
Restio is short form for plants in the Restionaceae family, from which 58 genera- (minus Rhodocoma, Chondrapetalum and Cannomois – the three plants featured in today’s blog post.)
A nice quote below from Pacific Horticulture Magazine should further help shed light on these cool South African plants:
Overall growth resembles bamboo, with upright culms ascending from a network of underground rhizomes. Like bamboo, there are running restio species, but those generally available in the western United States are densely clumped or spread only moderately.
Here are 3…
Rhodocoma capensis (Cape Restio) USDA zones: 8 – 11. This upright, clump forming restio grows to 6 feet tall. Arching reed-like stems bear congested tight whorls of tiny branchlets that give a fine texture to stems. Flowers? Yes. Feathery flower spikes in spring are pink on female plants; yellow-green on male plants. Exposure: full sun to light shade. Water: Low to moderate water. Size: 4-6′ h x 2-4′ w. Well drained soil.
Chondropetalum USDA 8-10. S. African rush with upright, jointed, matte blue-green stems that grow as wide as the diameter of a pencil. Each joint is enveloped by an ornamental papery bract that blends hues of cream, gold, rust, and brown. Dark brown flower heads grow at the tips of foliage. Below three popular varieties! Exposure: Full sun to part shade. Water: Low to moderate.
- Chondropetalum elephantinum – (Large Cape Rush). This is the largest one listed here. Size: 3 – 5 ‘h x 4 – 6’ w.
- Chondropetalum tectorum – (Cape Reed). Mid-sized/compact. Size: 3 – 5′ h x w.
3. Chondropetalum tectorum ‘El Campo’ – (El Campo Small Cape Rush). Most compact. Size: 2 – 3′ h x 3 – 4′ w.
Cannomois grandis (Bell Reed) – Hardy to mid 20 degrees F. Not low water like some of the others listed, this restio is native to streams and wet mountainous areas of S. Africa. This gorgeous large restio grows 7 to 8 feet tall, with gorgeous stiffly upright culms with bright reddish-pink sheaths and droopy hair-like foliage. (See photos above + lead photo). It’s also probably best located in a container or where potentially invasive rhizomes remain in check, as here in raised planter bed. (Think of a running bamboo). Exposure: Full sun to light shade. Water: Regular. Also, prefers well-drained acidic soil.
Restios offer a unique vibe. They are also a common backdrop to showy proteas plants. Probably the most commonly used restio here in SF Bay area is Chondrapetalum. Take a look above at the 3-Chondrapetalum varieties. In the right setting, these particular restios are easy to grow, low water when established, and add elements we sometimes need and want: vertical, airy and architectural texture, and swaying in the breeze!
Hope you enjoyed this post! 🙂