Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Giant Reed, Spanish Cane, Reed Grass
Arundo donax

Family: Poaceae (poh-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Arundo (a-RUN-doh) (Info)
Species: donax (DON-aks) (Info)

8 members have or want this plant for trade.

Ornamental Grasses and Bamboo

12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)
15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Late Summer/Early Fall

Grown for foliage

Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
This plant is resistant to deer
Provides winter interest

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)
From herbaceous stem cuttings

Seed Collecting:
N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

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By mystic
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By mystic
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By htop
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There are a total of 18 photos.
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5 positives
3 neutrals
5 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral bluetexasbonnie On Oct 1, 2013, bluetexasbonnie from Geronimo, TX wrote:

NEVER EVER plant it. htop is the only person I have ever heard say that they managed to eradicate it.

But I can't be negative about it. I love watching the graceful plumes sway in the wind. The redwing black birds love it. If there are any in the area, this is where they will be.

I fondly remember making "bamboo" wind chimes and whistles from it with my grandfather. My dad and uncles would cut fishing poles for us kids. I wasn't all that interested in the actual waiting for a fish to bite part of it -- but loved the go and family time.

Now that cane patch makes stakes for my garden and impromptu 'swords' for my grandsons. I have to love something that has brought so much fun and joy to my life. ... but if I could make that patch down in the field be smaller, I would.

Positive PlainsWanderer On Jul 1, 2013, PlainsWanderer from Louisburg, KS wrote:

I brought home some cut stocks from a wildlife preserve about four years ago and stuck them into the ground in my yard. They lived but did not grow tall or big in the shaded area, but the ones that got full sun grew larger and taller each year, reaching a height of 20 to 24 feet the third year. We love the beauty and drama of this plant, and the wispery sound it makes in the wind. It's also beautiful through the winter when the stalks turn golden. I cut them down each spring and use them as plant support stakes throughout the garden. New stalks grow each year, and with the moist spring we had they grew 6 inches a day. Each year this circular stand of stalks spreads, so its about 10 feet in circumference now, but we've had no problem with it spreading out of control here in NorthEastern Kansas. I think it helps that it's out in the lawn, and easy to mow around it on all sides. So far it has remained very tightly contained in it's clump, and is stunning from all sides on the landscape. I wouldn't recommend placing this plant near any building or foundation, but placed out on the lawn it's very showy and easy to control.

Positive SIlveroceanbluesky On Jun 4, 2013, SIlveroceanbluesky from Dayton, OH wrote:

This is my second year growing Arundo Donax in Dayton, Ohio.......about one hour North of Cincinnati. I have two plants that reach 15 to 20ft each year then die back in the winter. This plant is not hard to contain in Ohio and makes a nice screen between me and my neighbor. I have given some to my neighbor for his back yard and it is starting to take hold. I love this plant....very hard to find in Ohio but its doing great. I mulched the base with 3 inches of mulch for winter and it came back no problem. Regular lawn fertilizer will greatly enhance Arundo's height.

Positive grass_lover On Jun 24, 2012, grass_lover from (Zone 5a) wrote:

Arundo Donax is one of the few plants in the yard that I would replace if it didn't overwinter. It's a large plant and needs a lot of room. In some areas it may be invasive but it's not here in zone 5 Iowa. My plant is about 5 years old, can get around 20 feet tall and is probably about five or six feet wide. It adds variety to an ornamental grass display in the back yard. :)

Positive rurumi On Jan 11, 2011, rurumi from Jasper, AL wrote:

I'm 61 years old and the first time I saw this cane was when I was 6-7 years old, and I loved it at first sight. It grew in a long, watery ditch beside the highway where I lived in the country side in N.W. Alabama. I thought it was beautiful, tall, and majestic. Then for some reason it died and I didn't see it again until about 25 years later at an old house my sister moved into. So, I dug up a few of the ugly roots and took it home and planted it. It didn't do too good. Then after a couple years, it started multipling, growing, and looking healthy. I didn't know it's name. I ask people about it and they didn't know either. Mama said she thought it was some kind of Japanese cane. So thats what we called it for years, multipling Japanese cane. I moved it to another property a few years later and planted it in a low place in the front yard that stayed moist longer than the rest of the yard, and it thrived. Family trouble hit us and I moved away for about 5 years. Then we came back to this property and I was amazed at the giant, wide, tall, humongous growth of this cane. Everything was overgrown on the property. We cleaned the property off and tried to get the cane under control, but that was an overwhelming problem. It had grown into the gravel driveway, up into the yard and grass. But, we kept on digging up those ugly roots and chopping down the cane until we got it back to the size we wanted. I love my beautiful cane with it's fuzzy tassels on top and I will keep and manage it as long as I can. I've also transplanted some of those ugly roots to other parts of the yard, and some lived and some didn't.

Negative David_Gr On Oct 4, 2010, David_Gr from Durham
United Kingdom wrote:

I have this plant in my garden in south west France, near Cahors. It is proving extremely difficult to eradicate and quite frankly is a serious nuiscance. Beware, anyone contemplating planting this in their garden.

Positive franknjim On Aug 30, 2009, franknjim from Peoria, IL (Zone 5a) wrote:

Typicaly hardy to zone 6 but can be grown in zone 5. Winter mulching or micro climates help in zone 5.

Because of this plants nature, it is best planted recessed in a hole where it will have room to rise without coming up out of the ground.Just add dirt on top as it rises up. It is very difficult to remove and is best done with a tractor or an axe with a lot of sweat. Do not plant it next to any non permanent sidewalks, retaining walls, etc as it will move them. The rhizomes are as thick as your wrist and very tough. It is the tallest ornamental grass I have found in the Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses. This actually grows up to 24' tall with 3' tall seed heads on top.

This plant loves water. The more water you give it, the taller it will get. Witholding water will keep it shorter but also causes the bottom leaves to brown up.

Neutral olmpiad On Feb 26, 2009, olmpiad from Dallas, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

This plant can get pretty invasive, as its roots are near impossible to remove, and can exceed weights of 5lbs! The roots also contain the compounds N,N-DMT, 5-OH-DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, Gramine (which is notably toxic). The plant also contains very high amounts of silica in the stalks, and this has been utilized for its strength for thousands of years.

Neutral valdev On Aug 6, 2008, valdev from Boise, ID (Zone 6b) wrote:

i chose 'neutral' because i have no personal experience with donax arundo other than seeing it growing in the wild. i'm sure this plant is horribly invasive, and has no or little benefit to wildlife - not even being eaten by insects (other than some insects in other countries which researchers are studying to see if it would be good *or not* to import to the US in the hopes of controlling this plant), but i just wanted to report that it's not only growing in warm areas as is so often reported. i've found it growing in wetlands near the Anderson Ranch Reservoir, at about 4,500 ft altitude, in the mountains of idaho, where temps can get to 30 degrees below zero each winter. USDA zone 3, or Sunset Western zone 1a.

Negative kwanjin On Apr 15, 2008, kwanjin from (Zone 7a) wrote:

This plant was very well behaved the first year we had it. The second year, it was a little more intrusive. The third year, it began pushing up a small wall we had next to it. We spent time every 3-4 weeks digging it away from the wall and resetting the blocks. We started with a narrow row with small nodes on the roots. It is now 2'-2 1/2 ' wide and encroaching on the other plantings. In a row 14' long, it has taken 6 hours just to get half of them out. And this is with moist soil around it. The root balls are hard as rock and very thick. We've been using a mattock and hatchet to remove it.

Negative Venturan On May 25, 2007, Venturan from Ventura, CA (Zone 10b) wrote:

Aggressively invasive plant growing in Southern CA rivers. The state of CA is using a $5 million grant over the next 2 years to remove it from just 200 acres locally.

During abatement programs, it refuses to die. It can come back after hacking and slashing, poisoning and starving, burning and even smothering. It's a seriously bad plant that consumes significant amounts of water, spreads incredibly fast, often from just pieces of stem that have broken off and washed to a new spot. Every bit of it can reshoot.

It's an extreme fire hazard, able to ignite and explode even while green. The cane grows back even more densely after fire. Arundo can grow more than three inches per day.

When rivers and creeks have high flows, thick patches of the giant reed are carried downstream, where they damage bridges and culverts, and recolonize in spots along the way. Thick stands also change the flow of water, speeding up bank erosion.

Of all the invasive plants, arundo is the largest threat to Southern California's riverbank ecosystems, scientists say.

Negative frostweed On Nov 30, 2006, frostweed from Josephine, Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

Giant Reed, Spanish Cane, Reed Grass Arundo donax is naturalized in Texas and other States and is considered an invasive noxious plant in Texas.

Negative htop On Sep 8, 2005, htop from San Antonio, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

Giant reed is also commonly known as wild cane and its native habit is India. Being probably first introduced in the United States in Los Angeles, California in the early 1800's, it has become widely dispersed into all of the warm temperate areas and subtropical regions of the world through human introductions achieving naturalized status. Giant reed is widely planted as an ornamental throughout the warmer areas of the United States and is used along ditches for erosion control in the Southwest..

It is a perennial grass that can grow to over 20 feet tall. Giant reed propers in well drained soils where abundant moisture is available such as streams, ditches and riverbanks and grows in many soil types from heavy clays to loose sands. It has fleshy, creeping rootstocks which form compact masses. Its tough, fibrous roots penetrate deeply into the soil. Giant reed root and stem fragments can float for miles and may take root and initiate new infestations. It has a rapid growth rate which makes it possible for it to quickly invade new areas forming pure stands.

Giant reed can outcompete and completely suppress native vegetation once established and it is very difficult to remove. It can choke riversides and stream channels, interfere with flood control, increase fire potential and reduce habitat for wildlife. In addition, the root mats form natural dams causing debris to collect behind culverts, bridges and other structures which lead to structural damage. Giant reed can increase the potential for fires because it ignites easily.

However, giant reed has a variety of uses. It had been used to make primitive pipe organs. The reeds for woodwind instruments are still made from its culms and there are no known satisfactory substitutes. Also, it is employed in basketry and used for livestock fodder, making fishing rods, as a medicinal element, and soil erosion control.

The 1-2 inches wide and 12 inches long leaves are elongated. The flowers appear on 2-foot long, dense, plume-like panicles during August and September.

I would not recommend planting giant reed grass as an ornamental plant. It took over a large portion of our yard when I was a child and took years and years to eradicate.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Atmore, Alabama
Daphne, Alabama
Midland City, Alabama
San Diego, California
Santee, California
West Hollywood, California
Fairfield, Idaho
Pekin, Illinois
Peoria, Illinois
Greenville, Indiana
Louisburg, Kansas
Lucas, Kansas
Ewing, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky
Taylorsville, Kentucky
Mathiston, Mississippi
Dayton, Ohio
Sandusky, Ohio
Council Hill, Oklahoma
Hulbert, Oklahoma
Fayetteville, Pennsylvania
Greencastle, Pennsylvania
Conway, South Carolina
Florence, South Carolina
Dallas, Texas
De Leon, Texas
Geronimo, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
Santa Fe, Texas
Weslaco, Texas
Wichita Falls, Texas
Salt Lake City, Utah

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