Cape Restio Elegia capensis

👤 Non-toxic to humans
🐾 Non-toxic to pets
🌸 Not blooming
🍪 Not edible
‍🌱 Easy-care
horsetail restio


Elegia capensis, commonly known as the Cape thatching reed, is a visually striking plant with a distinctive growth pattern. It is characterized by its long, slender, reed-like stems that emerge from a central base, clustering tightly together to form a dense, fountain-like tuft. These stems take on a pleasing soft green color and exhibit a feathery appearance. They are covered with small, needle-like leaves that are arranged in whorls along the length of each stem. These tiny leaves are often a darker green and contribute to the plant's overall textured look. At the end of some stems, one may notice brown, cone-shaped structures that add an interesting visual contrast to the predominantly green foliage. These are actually reproductive parts of the plant, liked clustered flowers that, in their natural season, will add yet another layer of texture and color to the display. Overall, the Cape thatching reed presents itself as an ornamental grass, with a bushy, upright form and a graceful, arching silhouette that lends itself well to garden landscapes or as an accent plant. Its delicate and feathery foliage sways gently in the breeze, providing a dynamic and lively aspect to its appearance.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Family


    • Synonyms

      Cape Restio, Horsetail Restio

    • Common names

      Chondropetalum capense, Elegia macrocarpa, Elegia thyrsiflora.

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      Elegia capensis, commonly known as Cape Restio, is not widely known for its toxicity to humans. Most resources suggest that it is not poisonous, and there are no specific symptoms associated with poisoning from the plant. Therefore, ingesting parts of the Cape Restio is unlikely to cause harm; however, as with any plant, individual allergies or sensitivities could potentially cause mild reactions.

    • To pets

      Cape Restio is not known to be toxic to pets. There are no well-documented cases of pet poisoning from consuming parts of the Elegia capensis. Therefore, it is considered safe for pets; however, ingestion of non-food items can sometimes lead to gastrointestinal upset in pets, so it is generally a good idea to prevent pets from eating ornamental plants.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Flower color


    • Height

      5 feet (1.52 meters)

    • Spread

      3 feet (0.91 meters)

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area

      South Africa


  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Ornamental Value: Elegia capensis, commonly known as cape thatching reed, adds aesthetic beauty to gardens with its unique reed-like appearance and feathery texture.
    • Habitat Support: This plant offers habitat and shelter for various wildlife, such as birds and insects.
    • Erosion Control: The extensive root system of cape thatching reed helps bind soil and can prevent erosion.
    • Low Maintenance: It is known for being hardy and drought-tolerant, requiring minimal care once established.
    • Drought Resistance: Adapted to dry conditions, Elegia capensis can survive periods of water scarcity, making it suitable for xeriscaping.
    • Wind Tolerance: The strong stems and flexible growth habit make it capable of withstanding heavy winds, useful in coastal and exposed landscapes.
    • Cultural Significance: Traditionally used for thatching roofs, the plant has historical and cultural importance in some regions.
    • Privacy Screening: When grown in clusters, cape thatching reed can act as a natural privacy screen or windbreak.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    • Antibacterial: Elegia capensis is known to possess antibacterial properties which may help in inhibiting the growth of certain bacteria.
    • Anti-inflammatory: This plant has been reported to have anti-inflammatory activities, which could potentially reduce inflammation in various conditions.
    • Diuretic: Some sources suggest that Elegia capensis may act as a diuretic, helping the body expel excess water and salt.
    • Antioxidant: Compounds found in the plant might exhibit antioxidant effects, which can protect the body from oxidative stress and damage.
    • Wound healing: Traditionally, the plant may have been used to promote the healing of wounds, although scientific evidence may be lacking.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • Elegia capensis, commonly known as the Cape Restio, can be used in landscape design to create striking textures and contrasts with its needle-like foliage.
    • The dried stems of the Cape Restio are used in thatching roofs of traditional buildings, providing natural insulation and weather resistance.
    • Artisans may use the rigid stems of the plant to make eco-friendly garden support structures for climbing plants.
    • The plant's aesthetic form and movement in the wind can serve as an inspiration for artists and designers, particularly those working in the field of biomimicry.
    • Cape Restio can be used as a natural screen to provide privacy in gardens due to its dense growth habit.
    • The striking appearance of Elegia capensis can be incorporated into floral arrangements, particularly in dry bouquets.
    • The plant can also serve as a habitat for garden wildlife, such as insects and small birds, which find shelter within its foliage.
    • The stems can be woven into decorative items like baskets or mats, making use of their length and flexibility once dried.
    • Educational gardens may include Elegia capensis as an example of South Africa’s diverse flora and to teach about fynbos ecosystems.
    • In photography and painting, the Cape Restio provides a visually interesting subject, particularly in its natural habitat or when covered in dew or frost.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    The plant Elegia capensis is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    The Elegia capensis is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Resilience: Elegia capensis, commonly known as the Cape thatching reed, is a robust, evergreen species that thrives in harsh conditions of its native South African environment. Thus, it symbolizes the ability to withstand challenges and endure tough circumstances.
    • Elegance: With its fine, needle-like foliage and graceful form, the Cape thatching reed represents elegance and the beauty of natural simplicity.
    • Protection: Historically used for thatching roofs to provide shelter, this plant symbolizes the concept of protection and the comfort of home.
    • Growth: The reed's continual growth and vertical form are emblematic of personal growth and the pursuit of higher understanding or achievement.

Every 1-2 weeks
500 - 2500 Lux
Every 2-3 years
Spring-Early Summer
As needed
  • water dropWater

    The Cape Reed (Elegia capensis) prefers soil that is consistently moist but not waterlogged. You should water this plant thoroughly, allowing the water to penetrate the roots deeply, then wait until the top inch of soil is dry before watering again. Generally, this could mean watering every one to two weeks, but frequency will depend on climate and indoor conditions. It's best to use roughly half a gallon of water for a medium-sized pot, adjusting the amount as needed based on the size of your plant and pot.

  • sunLight

    The Cape Reed prefers bright, indirect light and should be situated in a spot that mimics its natural, bright habitat but protected from direct afternoon sun. An east or west-facing window with some shelter, such as a sheer curtain, would be ideal for filtering light and avoiding leaf scorch.

  • thermometerTemperature

    Cape Reed thrives in temperatures between 50 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. While it can endure brief periods of colder weather, it should not be exposed to temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Optimum growth occurs when the temperature is consistent and does not fluctuate wildly.

  • scissorsPruning

    Pruning the Cape Reed is mainly done to remove any dead or damaged fronds to maintain the plant's appearance. Light pruning can be done at any time of year, but major pruning should be conducted in the spring or early summer to give the plant time to recover and grow new fronds.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    The best soil mix for the Cape Reed (Elegia capensis) is well-draining and rich in organic matter. A mix of two parts peat or coir to one part perlite or coarse sand is suitable. The ideal soil pH for Cape Reed should be slightly acidic to neutral, ranging from 6.0 to 7.0.

  • plantRepotting

    Cape Reed (Elegia capensis) should be repotted every 2-3 years or when it outgrows its pot. It's important to refresh the soil and ensure the root system has enough space to grow.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    Cape Reed (Elegia capensis) prefers moderate to high humidity levels. Keeping humidity around 40-50% is ideal for this plant.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Provide bright light, well-draining soil, and moderate humidity.

    • Outdoor

      Plant in partial sun, shelter from wind, well-drained soil.

    • Hardiness zone

      8-11 USDA

  • circleLife cycle

    Elegia capensis, commonly known as Horsetail Restio, begins its life cycle as a spore since it is a member of the Restionaceae family, which reproduce via spores rather than seeds. These spores germinate in suitable moist conditions to form a small gametophyte, which is not commonly noticed in the wild. The gametophyte then undergoes fertilization when water allows sperm to swim to the egg, leading to the development of a new sporophyte - the conspicuous vegetative plant. This mature sporophyte is characterized by its erect stem and feathery, reed-like appearance, which can reach heights up to 2 meters. Horsetail Restio grows clumps of stems from a rhizomatous root system, and as it matures, it produces spore cones at the tips of the stems. These spores are subsequently dispersed by wind or water, allowing the life cycle to continue through the establishment of new gametophytes when conditions are favorable.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Spring-Early Summer

    • Propogation: Elegia capensis, commonly known as Cape Restio or Horsetail Restio, is best propagated through division during the spring. This method involves carefully separating the clumps into smaller sections, each with at least one growing point. To start, remove the plant from its container or dig around the clump in the garden to lift it out with minimal root disturbance. Using a sharp knife or spade, divide the clump into smaller sections, ensuring each has roots and shoots. Replant the divisions immediately into well-draining soil, watering them thoroughly to establish. It is essential to keep the newly planted divisions moist but not waterlogged during the first growing season to ensure successful establishment.