How to Grow Phalaris Plants

Guide to Growing Canary Grass, Ribbon Grass and Harding Grass

Phalaris grasses may be grown as ornamental plants in the garden.

Phalaris may be either hardy annuals or perennials and vary in height from 45 to 90 cm (18 to 36 inches).

They carry grass like flowers in the summer, and have somewhat attractive striped green and white leaves.

Some common names for Phalaris plants include Ribbon Grass, Canary grass, and Gardener's Garters.

Phalaris arundinacea

Reed Canary Grass
Photographs of Phalaris arundinacea / Reed Canary Grass by Matt Lavin; creative commons.

Phalaris Plant Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: Canary Grass, Harding Grass, Sunol Grass, Ribbon Grass.
Life Cycle: Hardy annual. Hardy perennial.
Height: 20 to 72 inches (50 to 180 cm).
Native: North America, Europe, Asia, North Africa.
Growing Region: Annuals: zones 3 to 10. Perennials in zones 4 to 9.

Flowers: Summer.
Flower Details: Oval inflorescence. Spike like. Dense.
Foliage: Greyish-blue, green, pink tinge. Sometimes striped cream and green. Flat. Broad. Long.

Sow Outside: Cover seed. First two months of spring or in late autumn. Spacing 12 to 36 inches (30 to 90 cm). Germination time: three weeks. Temperature 60°F (16°C).
Sow Inside: No

Requirements: Full sunlight or light shade. Moist soil. Light poor soils. Regular watering. Perennials should be cut back in spring. Propagate: dividing in the spring.
Family: Poaceae.
Miscellaneous: Invasive in some areas.

How to Grow Ribbon Grass, Canary Grass (Phalaris)

It is best to sow Ribbon grass, Canary Grass and other Phalaris Plant seeds outdoors.

They can be sown about 30 to 60 cm (1 to 2 feet) apart, either before the first frost of winter or at the start of spring.

Once sown lightly cover the ribbon grass seed.

For best results, grow ribbon grasses in a sunny part of the garden. Plants are also also able to grow in lightly shaded areas.

Ribbon grass thrives in a rich and moist soil.

Caring for Ribbon grass and other Phalaris Plants in the Garden

Ribbon grass and other Phalaris plants are fairly easy to look after.

The moister the soil the more they grow, so water regularly until they have reached the desired coverage.

Perennial species of Phalaris should be cut back at the start of spring and divided very five years.

If you require more plants then propagate annuals from harvested seed (or allow to self seed in situ) and perennials by division of the root stock in the springtime.

Common Questions

How many members does the Phalaris genus contain?

The Phalaris plant genus contains about 20 species of annual and perennial grasses.

Do Phalaris members make a good garden or landscaping plant?

Phalaris plants, such as reed canary grass, can be used in landscaping, particularly for erosion control or as ground cover in wet areas. However, they can be aggressive and are considered invasive in some areas.

Which Phalaris species are most frequently grown by gardeners?

The species Phalaris arundinacea or reed canary grass is often used in landscaping, though it can become invasive under favorable conditions.

Are Phalaris plants fragrant?

No, Phalaris plants are not typically known for their fragrance.

What is the perfect location to grow Phalaris?

Phalaris grows best in full sun to partial shade and prefers moist to wet soil conditions. It is often found in wetlands or along waterways.

Is Phalaris invasive in the USA, if so in which states?

Yes, Phalaris arundinacea or reed canary grass is considered invasive in many areas of the USA, particularly in the Midwest and Northeast.

How do I remove Phalaris plants from my garden?

Removing Phalaris can be difficult due to its aggressive rhizomes. It can require a combination of methods, including pulling, mowing, and possibly the use of herbicides.


The Phalaris genus belongs to the Poaceae family and includes perennial and annual grasses. Some of these species, such as reed canary grass, are often used for ornamental purposes or as forage crops.

Phalaris plants generally prefer a sunny to partially shaded location with moist, well-drained soil. Planting is often done in spring. They are suitable for a variety of uses, including ornamental grass borders, meadows, or waterside plantings.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Phalaris plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Briza, Tricholaena plant, Cotton grass, and Eragrostis plants.