Arundo donax the ‘Giant Reed’ is a common sight throughout the mediterranean growing wild on roadside verges, ditches and adjacent to wetlands reaching impressive heights of 3 or more metres in a single season. The form ‘Macrophylla’ is a selection with much broader leaves, a bluish grey-green in colour and generally held on stout thick stems again up to 3 metres high. For a mediterranean plant Arundo donax ‘Macrophylla’ is surpisingly hardy growing happily in most U.K gardens where is it useful for both adding structure and form to either grassy praire style planting or as I prefer exotic jungly gardens. We recommend treating each stem as an annual occurance rather than just planting and leaving. Doing this requires you to ‘strip’ all the side leaves off the mature stems each autumn creating a bold bamboo like effect for the winter months the stems taking on a horizontal stripy effect. Once April arrives cut back the old stems to just above ground level allowing the vigourous new lush growth to rocket up to the sky. This keeps the arundo both young and strong allowing it to be architectural and stately rather than the large fairly scruffy stands you see growing in the wild.
As you may have gathered Arundo donax ‘Macrophylla’ is an impressive fast growing plant and as such requires a little thought for best results, best suited to an open sunny position planted in fertile moisture retentive soil but ideally not waterlogged in winter location. I always recommend adding lots of organic compost when planting followed by an annual mulch of the same around the base of the stems usually at the same time, in autumn, as the stems are stripped. Arundo donax can make a large clump as it matures so allow space for expansion the clump slowly gets larger as the years go bye, or course you can prune it back excess stems but frankly I find it hard to cut back lush fresh new growth it just feels mean. One good thing is although arundo is vigourous it is clump forming and usually remains fairly tight in its location rather than visiting the neighbours, oh and almost forgot once you cut the stems back in spring there will be a rather nice bundle of attractive ‘reeds’ you can be creative with.