Phalaris arundinacea
Midwest Noxious Weed: Do Not Plant
Common Name: reed canary grass 
Type: Ornamental grass
Family: Poaceae
Native Range: Northern and southern temperate regions
Zone: 4 to 9
Height: 3.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 8.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to July
Bloom Description: White to pale pink
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Naturalize, Rain Garden
Flower: Showy
Tolerate: Drought, Clay Soil, Wet Soil, Black Walnut, Air Pollution
This plant is listed as a noxious weed in one or more Midwestern states outside Missouri and should not be moved or grown under conditions that would involve danger of dissemination.


Easily grown in average, moist, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Wide range of soil tolerance from wet (will grow in several inches of water) to dry, sand to clay, or acidic to alkaline. When grown to cover large areas, four plants per square yard will quickly fill such an area. Propagate by division or seed. Once established, this rhizomatous grass is very difficult to eradicate.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Phalaris arundinacea, commonly called reed canary grass, is an upright, rhizomatous, cool season perennial grass which typically grows to 3-6' tall. It is native to North America, Europe, Asia and North Africa. It is a wetland species that is found throughout Missouri on stream banks, pond/lake margins, marshes, fens, and bottomland prairies plus disturbed sites including roadsides, ditches, railroad right-of-ways and pastures (Steyermark). European genotypes are reportedly more aggressive and invasive than North American genotypes. Flat, green leaf blades (to 8-16" long and 2/3" wide) are attractive from spring to early summer, but tend to brown up as the summer progresses. Airy panicles (to 6-12" long) of greenish white to pale pink flowers bloom above the foliage in early summer (June-July). Flowers are conspicuous but not particularly showy. Stems are sometimes hollow, giving it a bamboo-like quality. Sometimes commonly called ribbon grass or gardener's garters.

Genus name comes from the Greek name for a grass of this genus.

Specific epithet means resembling a reed.


Reed canary grass is a rhizomatous, self-seeding spreader that is difficult to control. It is considered to be a significant invasive threat to wetland ecosystems. It spreads aggressively to form dense monocultures. Any tiny segment of root or rhizome can spout and spread. Use of soil barriers should be considered at the time of planting to prevent rhizomes from spreading into unwanted areas.


Invasive grass that is not recommended for planting in midwestern landscapes. It has in the past been used as a ground cover or barrier, for erosion control and as a forage crop.