Ribbon Grass

Phalaris arundinacea

Family: Ribbon Grass

Type: Ornamental grass

Other Common Name: Reed canary grass, Gardener's garters, Ribbon grass

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Ribbon Grass, also known as Phalaris arundinacea, is a perennial grass known for its striking variegated leaves. Its green and white striped foliage provides a bright accent in gardens. This grass is fast-growing and can reach heights of up to 3 feet, with a similar spread.

It’s an ideal choice for adding texture and movement to garden spaces. Ribbon Grass is hardy and adaptable, thriving in a range of conditions from full sun to partial shade. It’s especially useful in areas where other plants struggle to grow.

One notable characteristic of Ribbon Grass is its aggressive growth habit. It’s important to consider this when planting, as it can spread quickly and may require control measures in smaller gardens.

Needs & Preferences

Hardiness Zone: 3a-9b

Moisture Preference: Moist

Sun Needs: Full sun to partial shade


Growth Rate: Fast

Average Height (feet): 5

Average Spread (feet): 3

Average Life Span (years): 5

Form: Spreading


Flower Color: Green

Bloom Season: From late spring to early summer

Foliage Color: Green

Leaf Fall Color: Green

Foliage Shape: Linear

Landscaping Your Yard With Ribbon Grass

Ribbon Grass is excellent for creating natural borders or divisions in garden spaces. Its tall, dense growth provides an effective visual barrier. It’s also suitable for planting along pond edges or water features, where it can thrive in moist soil.

Incorporating Ribbon Grass into mixed perennial beds adds contrast and texture. Its variegated foliage stands out against solid-colored plants. This grass is also ideal for covering large, difficult-to-plant areas due to its robust growth.

Use Ribbon Grass as ground cover in open spaces. It fills in quickly, creating a lush, green carpet that requires minimal maintenance.


Suitable Garden Styles

Contemporary Garden

Ribbon Grass fits well in contemporary garden designs. Its clean lines and variegated coloring add a modern touch. It works well in minimalist settings, providing texture without overpowering the space.

Naturalistic Garden

In a naturalistic garden, Ribbon Grass adds a wild, untamed feel. Its ability to spread makes it a great choice for large areas, creating a meadow-like effect.

Water Garden

For water garden settings, Ribbon Grass is a natural fit. It tolerates wet conditions and can grow along pond edges, adding a soft, feathery element to the water's edge.

Ribbon Grass Landscaping Ideas

Plant Ribbon Grass in clusters for a dramatic effect. Grouping several plants together creates a sea of striped green and white, adding depth and interest. This technique works well in both large and small gardens.

Seasonal Interest


In spring, Ribbon Grass begins to show new growth. The fresh, variegated leaves add a burst of color and life after the dormant winter months.


During summer, Ribbon Grass reaches its full height and spread. The bright, striped leaves sway in the breeze, adding movement and texture to the garden.


As fall approaches, Ribbon Grass starts to fade in color. However, its structure remains, providing interest and contrast against the changing autumn foliage.


In winter, Ribbon Grass dies back but can still offer visual interest. The dried leaves and stems provide texture and movement, even in the dormant garden.

Planting Tips

Where to Plant

Ribbon Grass thrives in a variety of locations, from full sun to partial shade. It’s an excellent choice for areas with challenging conditions, such as slopes or banks, where other plants might struggle.


This grass is versatile, growing well in both full sun and partial shade. Full sun encourages more vigorous growth and brighter variegation in the leaves.


Ribbon Grass is not particular about soil type and can grow in a range of soil conditions, from moist to dry. Well-drained soil is preferable, but it can tolerate wetter areas, especially near water bodies.


When planting Ribbon Grass, give each plant about 2 to 3 feet of space. This spacing accommodates its rapid growth and spreading habit, preventing overcrowding.

When to Plant

The best time to plant Ribbon Grass is in the spring or early fall. Planting during these times allows the grass to establish itself before extreme weather conditions.

How to Plant

Plant Ribbon Grass at the same depth it was in its pot. Loosen the soil around the plant to encourage root spread. Water well after planting to settle the soil.

Plant Care Tips


Ribbon Grass is drought-tolerant once established, but it benefits from regular watering, especially in dry conditions. It can also tolerate more moist environments, making it versatile in different garden settings.


Fertilization is not typically necessary for Ribbon Grass. If desired, a light application of a general-purpose fertilizer in the spring can promote growth.


Pruning Ribbon Grass in early spring encourages fresh, new growth. Cut back the old foliage before new growth starts to keep the plant looking tidy.

By Season


Spring Care

In spring, cut back the old growth to make way for new leaves. Water the plant as needed, especially if the spring is dry.

Summer Care

During the summer, Ribbon Grass is at its most robust. Water during prolonged dry periods and enjoy its lush growth.

Fall Care

In fall, Ribbon Grass requires little care. Reduce watering as the plant begins to go dormant.

Winter Care

Ribbon Grass is dormant in winter. No special care is needed during this time, but the plant can be cut back if preferred for aesthetic reasons.


How Fast Does Ribbon Grass Spread?

Ribbon Grass is known for its rapid growth and can spread quickly. It’s important to monitor its spread, especially in smaller garden spaces.

Can Ribbon Grass Be Grown in Containers?

Yes, Ribbon Grass can be grown in containers, which can also help control its spread. Ensure the container is large enough to accommodate its growth and has good drainage.

Is Ribbon Grass Invasive?

While Ribbon Grass is not technically invasive, its aggressive growth habit can make it behave invasively in some gardens. It’s important to plant it in areas where its spread can be controlled or where it has plenty of room to grow.

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