Should you plant Arundo donax


Arundo donax, otherwise known as the Spanish cane or reed amongst others, is a tall growing cane species native to the middle east. That being said it has successfully naturalised in the mild temperate, subtropical and tropical regions of both hemispheres, especially in the Mediterranean, California, the western Pacific and the Caribbean. It will happily grow in most fresh and saline damp soils including the milder regions of northern european countries such as the UK. However as exotic as it looks should you plant Arundo donax?

Arundo donax var. versicolor
If you have ventured around the sunnier lands of the Mediterranean then you may well be familiar with large stretches of Arundo donax growing along roadsides and railway lines, so clearly once it has taken hold in a favourable environment Arundo donax has the capacity to run wild and untamed. With an average mature height of 6 meters, which can extend further to an incredible 10 meters under favourable conditions, Arundo donax has the capacity to become a massive problem if planted in areas where it cannot be properly managed. Furthermore, Arundo donax reproduces tough, fibrous underground rhizomes that form knotty, spreading mats which penetrate deep into the soil, up to 1 metre deep. Just one piece of stem and rhizome less than 5 cm long and containing a single node can readily sprout under a variety of conditions producing a viable specimen with a few weeks. In fact it is among the fastest-growing terrestrial plants in the world at nearly 10 centimetres day and soil temperatures only need to be above 7 degrees celsius for Arundo donax to enter active growth.

So at face value and if considered as a suitable ornamental plant for the garden, the evidence would suggest that you should avoid this plant - unless you hate both your neighbours and your own garden. However if you have a passion for its exotic looks and architectural effect then all is not lost as there are selected cultivars which you may wish to consider such as the epic Arundo donax var. versicolor.

Of course all plants are subjective and while I don't find Arundo donax particularly inspiring Arundo donax var. versicolor is an absolute diamond of a garden plant! It sports incredibly bold white and green striped foliage, and mature specimens are simply magnificent when in full growth. Arundo donax var. versicolor will not get anywhere near as tall as its natural species with a height of 2.5-3 metres and while it will readily clump form and propagate from devision it will not run wild. 

So to answer my own question, should you plant Arundo donax. Well no, but if you are considering Arundo donax var. versicolor then the answer is a resounding yes.

For related articles click onto the following links:
FESTUCA GLAUCA - The Blue Fescue

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