Are you struggling with pesky reed grass taking over your garden or wetland area?
You’ve come to the right place, as we’ll walk you through practical, proven methods for removing reed grass and regaining control of your garden.
Reed grass spreads aggressively through underground roots and root-like stems called rhizomes and can dominate wet areas and drainage ditches, choking out other plants.
But after reading this article, you’ll be armed with the know-how to conquer your reed grass problem once and for all, so your garden will soon be reed-grass-free and open up possibilities for joyful plantings.
- What Is Reed Grass?
- How To Identify Reed Grass?
- Why Is Reed Grass Bad?
- How To Eliminate Reed Grass?
What Is Reed Grass?
Reed grass, also known by its scientific name Phragmites australis, is a tall, perennial grass species belonging to the Poaceae family.
It is a widely distributed plant in various parts of the world, with a natural habitat spanning wetlands, marshes, riverbanks, lakeshores, estuaries, and other water-adjacent areas.
Reed grass is characterized by the following:
- Tall, hollow stems that can grow up to 15 feet (4.5m) high. The stems are ridged and hollow except at the nodes.
- Narrow leaves that are upright, flat, dark green in color, and have sharp edges. The leaves grow directly from the stems.
- Feathery, plume-like flower heads that emerge in summer and turn brown in fall. They spread out from the top of the stem.
- An extensive root system of horizontal, creeping rhizomes that send new shoots. This allows reed grass to form large colonies.
How To Identify Reed Grass?
Here’s how to identify reed grass.
Tell #1: Height and Growth Pattern
Reed grass is known for its considerable height, often reaching up to 10 feet (3 m).
It tends to grow in dense clumps or stands along the water’s edge.
Tell #2: Leaf Structure
The leaves are long and slender, resembling elegant blades with pointed tips.
The leaves’ texture is smooth, and their deep green color adds to the overall beauty of the plant.
Tell #3: Distinctive Seed Heads
During the appropriate season, reed grass develops unique seed heads.
These plumes are fluffy and feathery, adding a touch of charm to the plant.
Tell #4: Hollow Stems
The stems of reed grass are robust, hollow, and slightly flexible.
You can crush a stem between your fingers and feel that it is hollow.
Tell #5: Preferred Habitat
Reed grass typically grows in wetland habitats like marshes, pond edges, ditches, and wet meadows.
It prefers moist soils.
Why Is Reed Grass Bad?
Reed grass is considered “bad” or problematic in certain contexts due to its invasive nature and ability to outcompete native plant species.
Here are some reasons why reed grass can be seen as undesirable:
- Reed grass spreads aggressively through its extensive rhizome system, outcompeting other species for resources. This reduces plant diversity in wetland habitats.
- The dense thickets of reed grass can clog drainage ditches, channels, and wetland areas, obstructing the flow of water, which can cause flooding issues.
- While reed grass provides some habitat, especially for nesting birds, it typically supports less diverse wildlife communities than native wetland plants.
- The dense growth of reed grass can alter the physical structure of wetland habitats. It may create monocultures that are less beneficial for wildlife diversity and limit the availability of open water and mudflats, which are important habitats for certain species.
- Large stands of aggressive reed grass on residential properties can make areas unusable for recreation and detract from curb appeal. This can lower property values.
- Reed grass thickets can harbor mosquitos and ticks that spread diseases. The sharp, serrated leaves of reed grass can also cause minor cuts and irritation for people working to remove it.
How To Eliminate Reed Grass?
Here’s how to eliminate reed grass.
Method #1: Herbicides
Glyphosate herbicides like Roundup can be effective against reed grass.
Use a product specifically labeled for “non-selective” weed control.
Alternatively, herbicides containing fluazifop or sethoxydim are explicitly labeled for reed grass and related ornamental grasses.
Apply by spot-spraying individual clumps of reed grass.
Method #2: Mowing/Cutting
Mowing reed grass down to the ground every 2-3 weeks during the growing season can help weaken and kill the plants over 1-2 years.
This disrupts their ability to photosynthesize and store energy in the roots.
Combining mowing with herbicide applications can improve control.
Reed grass can be eliminated by introducing regular flooding to weaken and eventually kill the plants, especially in low-lying areas.
Method #3: Solarization
You can cover reed grass patches with clear plastic sheeting during the summer to heat up the soil and kill the rhizomes through high temperatures.
Keep the plastic sealed for 4-6 weeks.
Method #4: Smothering
Covering reed grass patches with thick layers of cardboard and mulch can smother the plants by blocking sunlight.
Keep the area covered for 6-12 months to eliminate the grass.
While reed grass provides some benefits, it can become invasive and form dense thickets that crowd out native plants and limit diversity.
Controlling reed grass requires diligence, but with the right strategies, populations can be reined in and habitats restored.
We can restore balanced ecosystems that benefit all life with persistence and determination.