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Make cape reeds the new stars of your border

Enjoy the architectural beauty of these elegant plants that have only recently reached us from the fynbos of South Africa.

Restios are a rush-like group of architectural plants that are set to join grasses and bamboos as the new stars of the border and containers.

The origins of restios

They come mainly from South Africa where they're found on the fynbos, a rich and diverse habitat made up of bulbs, perennials, annuals and shrubs. This area is occasionally swept by fire, but smoke then triggers the germination of seeds lying dormant in the soil and the result is a new generation of plants.

Planting companions

Restios are what's known as cool-season growers. The shoots grow from late-summer until Christmas and then again in spring. In borders, team them with strong architectural plants, such as the dwarf variegated Phormium 'Yellow Wave' and Fatsia japonica. Or, if you prefer the softer look of prairie-style planting, try mixing them with soft orange Achillea millefolium 'Terracotta', blue clouds of catmint and Russian sage.

Some shrubs also make great companions, such as euphorbias, geums and Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing' with the warmer-coloured iris flowers, or cistus and artemisia for the cool blues and yellows.

Five favourites

<i>Cannamois virgata</i>

Cannamois virgata

This restio has thick branched, bamboo-like stems that can grow to around 3m high and form huge clumps.

<i>Chondropetalum mucronatum</i>

Chondropetalum mucronatum

A towering specimen at 2m. The soft-green banded stems make it a perfect accent plant.

<i>Elegia capensis</i>

Elegia capensis

This has slender branches and forms tussocks about 1.5m wide and high. With its attractive whorls it looks similar to horsetail. It has golden-brown flower heads in spring, followed by dark-brown seedheads.

<i>Rhodocoma gigantea</i>

Rhodocoma gigantea

This bears thrusting 3m tall stems crowned with chestnut-brown seedheads.

<i>Thamnochortus rigidus</i>

Thamnochortus rigidus

This plant produces clusters of brown flowerheads in summer. Height 80cm.

How to grow restios

Restios do best in well-drained acidic soil in a sunny, south-facing sheltered spot. Coming from South Africa, restios are used to the cold but not the wet, so beware waterlogged soil. Growing them in a raised bed is a good option, while some of the shorter varieties would be happy in big pots. Unless you live in a sheltered spot, it's advisable to protect less-hardy restios during cold spells. Wrap plants with a layer of horticultural fleece or cover the crown with a deep layer of mulch.

Discuss this plant feature

Talkback: Restios
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mollvamplew 24/11/2011 at 15:28


witchysue 24/11/2011 at 15:28

i purchased 3 restios last year planted them in pots have all come through the winter