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How to Grow Reed Canarygrass

By Mary Osborne ; Updated September 21, 2017
Clump of reed canarygrass

Reed canarygrass is a hardy perennial that is often planted in moist, wet areas of the landscape. The grass can grow to an amazing 6 to 9 feet tall, so be sure to allow plenty of room for this hardy plant to spread its roots. Use as a border grass or for difficult spots in the landscape where water stands or pools. The thin, 10-inch-long leaf blades of the grass droop gracefully, and its dense clusters of single, green-purple flowers bloom in the late spring. Reed canarygrass is also quite drought-resistant, despite the fact that it enjoys damp, fertile soil. This grass can be invasive and will crowd out other plants, but its vigorous growth of rhizomes (underground, horizontally growing plant stems) form a dense, hard-packed sod that helps prevent soil erosion.

Spreading reed canary grass seed

Choose a moist, fertile location to plant the reed canarygrass seed. One half-pound of seed is enough for an area of 1,000 square feet, so determine the size of the area desired and the amount of seed needed for the square footage.

Prepare the soil by tilling or turning with a shovel to a depth of several inches. Remove any weeds or other grasses from the turned soil.

Level the soil using the rake with long, even strokes.

Scatter the reed canarygrass seed in a thin, even layer across the surface of the prepared soil.

Rake the seeded area lightly until the reed canarygrass seed is covered to a depth of 1/4 to 1/2 inches.

Water the area evenly with a fine spray from a garden hose if the soil conditions are dry.

Growing Established Plants

Cultivate the soil to twice the depth of the root portion of the potted reed canarygrass. Dig a hole that is roomy enough to contain the root ball, and deep enough for the base of the plant to rest slightly below ground level.

Remove the potted grass plant from its container by tapping and squeezing the pot, turning it while tapping and squeezing to loosen pot-bound roots.

Place the root ball of the grass plant into the hole. Fill the hole with water, then push the soil into the hole, loosely compacting it around the plant.

Water the newly planted reed canarygrass plant, if necessary. In wetlands or moist areas, it won't be necessary to water the plants. Repeat watering once a week during dry periods and droughts.

Control well-established plants that spread beyond their limits by mowing or pulling new sprouts by hand. In early spring, prune dead leaf blades back to a height of 3 to 4 inches.


Things You Will Need

  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Reed canary grass seed or pots of started plants
  • Garden hose


  • Reed canarygrass is often used as a forage crop for pasture animals.


  • While established, reed canarygrass can withstand flooding, newly planted seeds cannot.