Chondropetalum elephantium ‘Large Cape Rush’
If you’re looking to add some visual interest to your garden, Chondropetalum elaphantium ‘Large Cape Rush,’ would provide striking texture, graceful stature, and evergreen color!
C. elephantium is a reed that is native to South Africa and can be found growing on wetland margins. It forms dense tufted clumps that give rise to 4-5’ tall dark green, round, unbranched stems. The brown papery bracts at the joints drop off in the summer, leaving a dark band at each node. It blooms in the summer and fall. Narrow, brown flower clusters sit atop each shoot giving it an elegant movement when a breeze moves through the stems. This perennial has an upright, loose structure that can grow 4-6’ wide.
C. elephantium does best in full sun to part shade. Too little sun will cause the stems to flop over. It is drought tolerant once established, but will be happy with supplemental watering, especially in the spring. It has low to regular watering needs and thrives in sandy, rocky, or loamy soil. It is cold hardy to 25°F. Cut old growth to the ground as new shoots begin to show up in spring or you can prune out old stems individually. Be careful not to disturb the roots.
C. elephantium is deer resistant and can be successfully planted in a large range of garden conditions! They’ll do great in seaside gardens and will also thrive in drier landscapes. You can plant them in the shallows of a water garden or set them in the company of larger agaves and aloes! They pair well with other heat-loving plants like salvias, lavenders, succulents, and other ornamental grasses.
A close up of flower buds coming into bloom (pictured above)
We are currently growing C. elephantium in 5-gallon containers. They are beginning to come into bloom and the weight of the flower clusters will soon give the plant a nice, graceful arch.
A close relative is C. tectorum, which we are also selling at the nursery in 5-gallons! (2-3’H x 3-4’W)
The Sunset Western Garden zones are zones 8, 9, 14-24