Add Some Architectural Structure to your Landscape
Chondropetalum tectorum belongs to the group of cape rushes, also known as restios. They are mostly from the southern hemisphere – the countries of South Africa and Australia – who also have a Mediterranean climate like ours. This means hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters. Therefore, many plants from these regions thrive in our area. Restios are no exception.
Restios belong to the family Restionaceae. They are easy to grow, low maintenance, and highly adaptable, making them the perfect multi-purpose garden specimens for Bay Area landscapes. Their fine texture is similar to that of bamboo. Restios are rushes, as their name suggests, and they grow in clumps, forming evergreen, fine-textured, blue-green cylindrical foliage. The foliage flows in the wind, creating a dramatic effect in massed plantings, making it a good candidate for windy, exposed sites. These plants develop attractive brown blooms in summer and fall. This plant’s texture and seed heads look similar to that of ornamental grasses.
Chondropetalums make wonderful features for patios, planted in containers, and can provide great structural interest in modern landscape designs with mass plantings. They can also create drama when lining a small retaining wall or fence. Restio species also integrate well in general mixed dry garden plantings, contrasting beautifully with broader-leaved perennials such as Salvias (ornamental sages) and Penstemons, as well as evergreen shrubs such as Cotinus (Smoke tree) and Choisya ternata (Mexican orange).
Chondropetalum tectorum is a dwarf variety of restio, growing 2-3′ tall and 3-4′ wide. Its common name is the small cape rush. It is also know by the latin name Elegia tectorum. ‘Tectorum’ means roofing in Greek, and this species has been used to thatch roofs. C. tectorum has brown sheaths that cover the leaf joints, which it sheds in summer. The smaller size and its moderate to fast growth rate make this Chondropetalum extremely useful in the landscape.
Chondropetalum tectorum flourishes in a variety of conditions but prefers full sun to light shade. It will grow in dry gardens with minimal summer water once established. It will also thrive near water features and in other wet conditions. It is therefore a perfect plant to utilize in rain gardens or season dry creek beds. Its architectural beauty can also be highlighted by planting it next to boulders and other garden features such as statues. This plant will also perform well in seaside gardens and prefers enriched soil with good drainage.
USDA Zones: 8-10.
Planting and Care for Chondropetalum tectorum
- Plant in full sun or light shade.
- Plant in soil with good drainage.
- Amend heavy soils with Greenall’s Firmulch to improve drainage.
- Prefers acidic soil.
- Water needs are low but will tolerate planting near water features and in rain gardens.
- Mulch base with bark mulch to conserve soil moisture.
- Fertilize infrequently with low phosphorus fertilizer.
- Cut back to the base to renew growth.