Elegia tectorum

Elegia Tectorum

Elegia tectorum

Elegia tectorum is technically not an ‘ornamental grass’ but a reed-like plant, and is part of the indigenous Restionaceae family, one of the three main family groups that form our fynbos. It has a round, tufted growth habit that rapidly reaches a mature size of about 1.5m x 1.5m. The reedy stems are dark green and smooth with dark brown leaf sheaths. Slender, compact flower inflorescences with brown bracts appear in autumn.


• Lovely choice to plant near water elements or dry, stone-bed streams.
• Good companion to other indigenous grasses in modern grass gardens.

• Naturally a good choice in fynbos gardens, but also good to use amongst bold succulent plants like aloes and kalanchoes. 

• Very graceful specimen for large pots.

Growing notes:

• Will grow anywhere, even in cold climates with light to medium frost.

• Best position is full sun.

• Plant in compost-enriched, well-draining sandy soil. Do not use any fertilisers and never disturb the plant’s roots.

• Young plants should receive regular water to keep the soil moist until well established, when medium water is required. Those in pots will require daily watering in summer.

• Tidy up the plants now and again by removing the old outer reedy stems. Never cut across the whole plant.

Botanical name: Elegia tectorum (previously Chondropetalumtectorum)

Common name: Cape thatching reed

Origin: This species is found in the wild in sandy soil and moist dongas from Clanwilliam in the Western Cape to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape.

Companion Plants


Tree ferns are very dramatic focal plants normally planted in shady areas, although they will tolerate full sun if the stem, roots and the atmosphere around them stay moist. One of the fastest-growing tree fern species is Cyathea australis, single-stemmed with a rough black trunk topped by a large umbrella of bright green fronds. The height is up to 5m when mature. You can also choose the indigenous C. dregei (also known as Alsophila dregei), which is protected but available at some nurseries.


Cape fuchsias flower throughout the year, producing pendulant, tube-like flowers. Pretty hybrids include red, deep rose and cream. They are evergreen little shrubs (40cm x 90cm) that like moist soils along streams in full sun or light shade.


Zantedeschia aethiopica, commonly called arum lily, grows in fertile soil of wetlands and damp marshy areas close to water. The snowy white flower is not really a flower, but a modified leaf called a spathe that protects masses of fused flowers along a bright yellow central spike called a spadix. The plant reaches a height of about 0.6m – 1m and grows from an underground rhizome with spongy stems carrying large, dark green leaves. Can be planted in full sun to light shade.

The Gardener