Ribbon Grass, Reed Canary Grass, Gardener's Garters

Phalaris arundinacea

Family: Poaceae (poh-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Phalaris (FAL-ah-ris) (Info)
Species: arundinacea (a-run-din-uh-KEE-uh) (Info)
Synonym:Phalaroides arundinacea
Synonym:Phalaris arundinacea var. picta
Synonym:Phalaroides arundinacea var. picta


Ornamental Grasses and Bamboo

Foliage Color:


Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


18-24 in. (45-60 cm)


18-24 in. (45-60 cm)


USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

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)

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade

Light Shade

Partial to Full Shade



Bloom Color:


Bloom Time:

Late Summer/Early Fall



Other details:

May be a noxious weed or invasive

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 the rootball

Seed Collecting:

Unknown - Tell us


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

Huntsville, Alabama

Clayton, California

Fairfield, California

Knights Landing, California

Brighton, Colorado

Marietta, Georgia

Godfrey, Illinois

Hinsdale, Illinois

Greenville, Indiana

Indianapolis, Indiana

Delhi, Iowa

Bangor, Maine

Pikesville, Maryland

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Rosemount, Minnesota

Saint Cloud, Minnesota

Waynesboro, Mississippi

Piedmont, Missouri

Saint Louis, Missouri

West Plains, Missouri

Tilton, New Hampshire

Buffalo, New York

Hilton, New York

Jefferson, New York

Worcester, New York

Belfield, North Dakota

Bucyrus, Ohio

Cincinnati, Ohio

Jay, Oklahoma

Malvern, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Sumter, South Carolina

Petersburg, Virginia

Olympia, Washington

Seattle, Washington

Porterfield, Wisconsin

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Apr 23, 2017, wendymadre from Petersburg, VA wrote:

In my Zone 7A garden in Petersburg, Virginia, I've had ribbon grass for ten years or so. For eight years, it was contained at the edge of a border next to the driveway, although I ended up digging it out and replacing it with an evergreen ground cover. I've sunk it in the ground, among other perennials in three gallon pots. I guess I'll find out if its notorious roots will escape the drainage holes in the pots. I suppose I'll have to remove it from time to time to divide it. I think it might look good in a pot up near my dark purple front door this year, too.


On Sep 5, 2016, rkruvand from Huntsville, AL (Zone 7a) wrote:

I grew it in Zone 5 up against the house in a bed edged with railroad ties, and now in Zone 7 under a crepe myrtle tree so it competes with tree roots. In both cases it spread but was not unmanageable. It brightens up the shade and is a nice filler in bouquets.


On Sep 6, 2015, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

This green and white striped low grass is sold at many garden centers and nurseries. It is very aggressive, spreading like crazy by rhizomes, underground stems. It causes trouble if it escapes cultivation for natural, native environments. I planted a batch around a low spot around a drain in a lawn and it did stay put because of the lawnmower once a week. It has been there at least 15 years on the grounds of a hospital. I would not do it again. I would discontinue this species as it also gets messy in time.


On May 16, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

Spreads aggressively underground by rhizomes. This is one of the species that have given grasses a bad name as mixed border plants.

This species is naturalized through most of North America, and often forms large monoculture stands in wetland habitat. Cultivating it is prohibited in Massachusetts, where it's considered an invasive threat to natural habitat. It's been declared a noxious weed in Washington, and invasive in Connecticut.


On May 16, 2014, elsutor from Penn Hills, PA wrote:

I've had a variegated ribbon grass growing in a mostly sunny area for a bit over a year. Its home is next to my hose, so it probably gets more water than most in the heat of the summer.

It doubled in size in a year, and I spaded a good portion out and moved it to a shady area about 10 inches wide between my air conditioning unit and a brick house. It transplanted nicely and I expect that I will have to maintain both patches regularly to keep it in check.

I do not live near wetlands, and in my small, Pittsburgh, PA garden, I give it enough attention that I don't see it becoming a nuisance. Ribbon grass has its purposes in my garden. If I were to move and the new owners of my house were not good at garden upkeep, I can see how this grass would take over-- ... read more


On Oct 27, 2012, naomiZ5b from Bangor, ME wrote:

I have grown phalaris in two locations within about 20 feet of each other. The first was in nice loamy soil with morning sun and afternoon shade. A healthy clump developed, very ornamental, but it was too tall (5 ' ) and wide for its spot. I divided it and moved it to a dry slope with poor soil and competition from tree roots. It has languished as a pitiful little scraggler for years without expanding. Thus the neutral rating. If I had more room I would move it back to a happier spot.

As a side note, the tall blooming stalks make great cat toys!


On Jul 5, 2011, placands from Hilton, NY (Zone 6a) wrote:

Have had this plant in my garden for years. Grows anywhere. It does multiply, but I don't find it invasive. After it produces seed heads, it tends to flop over (which I hate) and lose its varigation. So I cut it down and it grows right back!


On Jan 10, 2010, theNobody14161 from Kalamazoo, MI wrote:

This plant annihilates wetland meadows. It may be manageable in dry or shady areas, but in wet sunny areas the only plant I have witnessed beating it is Phragmites australis. It WILL win against narrowleaf cattail and I would only fathom planting it if NO suitable habitat is within seeding distance.


On Oct 16, 2009, purplesun from Krapets,
Bulgaria (Zone 8a) wrote:

This grass is on the top of my To-Remove List. I don't know about wetlands, but it grows just as lush and plump in our steppe climate.


On Sep 12, 2009, 2zeus from (Zone 7b) wrote:

I'm of two minds about this grass - it's striking and beautiful, and all my garden visitors exclaim "I love that!" However, from a one-gallon pot with only a few sparse stems, in 3 years it has become a lush clump 4' in diameter. It's contained in a small shade bed where not much else will grow - concrete on 3 sides keeps it in check. I wouldn't want to try to plant it in a perennial bed, and keep it controlled. For that reason, when we move, I'm leaving it. I'll find a similar grass that is less invasive.


On Feb 17, 2009, mamooth from Indianapolis, IN (Zone 5b) wrote:

I'm gradually trying to get this grass out of my butterfly garden (a patch of wet clay, full sun, zone 5), because it's nothing special and it takes up space. It's tough, because this grass fights back. The blade edges are sharp, and they do cut skin. Hence my negative rating.


On May 5, 2008, LenasGarden from Tiffin, OH (Zone 5b) wrote:

I've been growing this grass for 20 some years and as I moved to 4 different houses, its moved with me. It is a perennial grass that is hardy from Zone 4-9. Height is 2'-4'.

Others who have listed information on the plant have said it is terribly invasive and its even outlawed in some states! I believe it could be invasive in ideal conditions and in other zones, however, I will give you comments of my experience with it in Zone 5. In Zone 5 it seems to behave.

I've never really had any trouble with it. In fact, I sometimes wish it would be more invasive and fill-in faster. That being said - I do have it planted in my PROBLEM spots, so that must help keep it contained. When all other plants fail for me in a spot, I try the ribbon grass there - I use it as... read more


On Apr 15, 2008, AnalogDog from Mountlake Terrace, WA (Zone 8a) wrote:

Due to its invasive qualities it is illegal to sell this plant in the state of Washington.


On Mar 15, 2008, distantkin from Saint Cloud, MN (Zone 4b) wrote:

The Minnesota DNR has Reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) listed on it's invasive species list.
"Ecological Threat:

* Reed canary is a major threat to natural wetlands. It out competes most native species.
* It presents a major challenge in wetland mitigation efforts.
* It forms large, single-species stands, with which other species cannot compete.
* If cut during the growing season a second growth spurt occurs in the fall.
* Invasion is associated with disturbances, such as ditch building, stream channeling sedimentation and intentional planting.
* This Eurasian species has been planted throughout the U.S. since the 1800s for forage and erosion control. It is still being planted."


On Feb 21, 2008, Malus2006 from Coon Rapids, MN (Zone 4a) wrote:

I only rated it a neutral because it is a very lovely tough plant that will do well in a island bed with clumping perennials and small shrubs and trees and also maybe next to a house. Island bed meant that the garden bed is surrounded by lawn or hard landscape features - but it's alway best to reduce the number of cracks or spray weed killer once in a while if it tries to sneak through the cracks of the hard landscape features.(hard landscape features meant brick paths, paved stone paths, concrete, etc). Otherwise, it is not a good plant for most landscape features - it grows too aggressively for most species of plants, choking them out. Also it is hard to weed out other grass species out of the patches.

I still have tiny patches of ribbon grass popping up since I have t... read more


On Jul 30, 2005, Joan from Belfield, ND (Zone 4a) wrote:

I've had this growing for 3 years in a sunny location, but also a fairly dry area of the yard. It's been pretty well behaved. The clumps have increased, but not gotten out of hand.


On Oct 11, 2004, landspirit from Seattle, WA (Zone 8b) wrote:

Phalaris arundinacae is, in this area, one of the most invasive wetland weeds. It is on the State of Washington Noxious Weed list. It becomes a monoculture in partly sunny wetlands, crowding out almost all 'marginals'. Habitiat for wetland wildlife is being adversely impacted throughout the state. In some areas it is possible to drive for 50 miles and see nothing but Phalaris in wetlands.
Seeds last for decades, are carried great distances, and are produced in the hundreds of thousands per hundred square feet.
The variegated forms are less invasive but produce viable seed. They can be quite beautiful in early season growth. Planting these is not justified by the potential destruction of wetland habitat. With global warming Phalaris has the potential to overwh... read more


On Oct 10, 2004, Linnea from Tilton, NH (Zone 4a) wrote:

We have this in our garden, have had ever since we moved here, and in thirteen years it has made itself at home without being too aggressive.

We call it ribbongrass, which is what my great-grandmother called it when she gave us starts of it from her garden. I know she had grown it for a very long time, because she talked about growing it on the banks of the Siuslaw river, where she raised her children, close to seventy years ago. She was very proud of her striped grass, and a varieagated holly, and was sad that after they moved, the relative who bought the house destroyed all the varieagated plants because he thought they were diseased.


On Jul 25, 2004, henryr10 from Cincinnati, OH (Zone 6b) wrote:

I've been growing this for about 15 years.
It's definitely a thug if in the sun and well watered.

In partial dry shade it will die out rather quickly.
In partial wet shade it is very manageable.

It can get untidy though in these conditions.
We cut ours down to 8" or so in mid Summer.
It regrows perfectly fine w/ bright new foliage.

Another good thug for it to duke it out w/ is Northern Sea Oats.
About an even match.


On Mar 17, 2004, youreit from Knights Landing, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

So far so good. I've only had this plant in the ground since late last summer/early fall, and it survived. I live on the border of Sunset zones 8 & 14 in California, and I planted it in part sun in a raised bed near a man-made creek. It hasn't spread yet, but I would rather that it did, since it's pretty bare in that area at the moment. When it was still in the pot, I left it in the shallow shore-end of our pond for a few weeks, but it started turning brown, so I pulled it out and watered it myself. I can't wait to see what happens next.


On Sep 18, 2003, Happenstance from Northern California, CA wrote:

Good pond or bog plant or in a situation where it can be contained. It can be VERY invasive if let loose. Spreads by underground "bulblets"/rhizomes and will crowd out most everything within two seasons in 9b. The underground runners and growth reminds me of a potbound Asparagus Fern or Spider Plant - tough as nails!

Dies back in the winter and rests up for being a thug in the Spring. I pull "all" of it and dig some so that each year I end up with just a reasonable amount around the pond. Moneywort gives it a run for its "money" in the thug department and the two seem to be able to live in harmony together.


On May 26, 2002, lupinelover from Grove City, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:

Given full sun and loose soil, this plant runs wild. Given adverse conditions it is contained, making it suitable as a vertical accent in shade gardens.