Ribbon grass: love ’em or hate ’em

grass blades are about 14 inches long and 1/4 inch wide, more white than green pinstripes

Common ribbon grasses (Phalaris arundinacea) and its variegated variants are quite an attractive addition to any garden.  They are perfect as ground covers or borders in landscapes. Yet, these plants are infamous — gardeners “love them at first sight” but ended up hating them. Hmmnnn…

16 inches long and 3 mm wide green blades with white margins

How often do I hear incidents of gardeners trying to kill them? Perhaps, dozen times. Precautionary measures must be taken to those who would want to accommodate these aggressive plants. Like most grasses, they are pretty, hardy and very invasive when left on their own. Given the perfect garden condition, they spread out quickly — occupying any available space in a matter of weeks.

grass blades are about 4mm wide and 15 inches long, white leaves with green margins (foreground)

To avoid this, I planted my ribbon grasses in medium-sized pots with large holes at the bottom (to avoid water-clogging). I used loam soil as potting medium though these low-maintenance plants would thrive on any type of moist soil. Water is essential to them especially in dry season; drought could kill them. However, during wet season, I withhold water for the rain would suffice to keep the soil moist. Over-watering would often result to “drowning”.

1mm wide and 11 inches long green blades

Also, sun exposure is important for them to thrive. So, I put them in an area where they could get plenty of sun and some shade. Too much sunlight would often result in scorched leaves while full shade is detrimental to their growth and their coloring.

At the end of the day, I still like these remarkable plants and so are the little sparrows residing in my garden. I notice that the sparrows often make numerous trips to pick the choicest dry leaves of ribbon grasses; they use the dry blades as nest-material.  Anyway, as long as there is growth management, these grasses wouldn’t be a nightmare to me.


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