Phalaris brachystachys, or ‘Shortspike Canary Grass’, is an impressive grass from the Poaceae family. As with the closely related popular ornamental species Phalaris aquatica and Phalaris arundinacea, brachystachys is easy to grow from seed and can be further propagated by means of a simple cloning technique. We’ve recently begun to grow this attractive species and hence thought we’d pass on our knowledge by means of this guide.
In lieu of future tutorials appearing on this website, it’s worth noting that most – if not all – of the advice outlined here also applies to the cultivation of many related species, so (for now at least) this article may be also considered as a basic primer on how to grow Phalaris species in general. Many members of the Phalaris genus are well-suited to beginners wishing to gain cultivation experience with the wider Poaceae grasses, so if you want to learn how to grow Phalaris brachystachys from seed or clone, read on!
Happily for anybody who has been waiting for an opportunity to grow this great grass species, the real secret of how to grow Phalaris successfully is simply to keep it well-watered. If proper moisture levels are maintained throughout the plant’s lifetime, she will reward you with as much expansion of her gorgeously-hued foliage as you will allow!
- Phalaris brachystachys seed
- Plant mister
- Plant pot (or other suitable growing container)
- Potting soil
- Water (tap water is fine)
- Garden fork or spade (optional)
- Kelp/Worm castings/etc. (optional)
- Perlite/Pumice (optional)
- Trowel (optional)
Method – How to grow Phalaris brachystachys from seed
- First, we’d advise sieving out any larger matter from the potting soil. You can also optionally mix in a little kelp or worm castings as fertiliser at this point, as well as some fine or medium-grade perlite or pumice if you want to improve drainage.
- Fill the plant pot with the soil mixture and then lightly and evenly pat the surface flat. You want to leave it a little loose, else you could hinder the seeds from sprouting.
- Using a plant mister, spray the surface of the soil with water until it is moist but not soaked.
- Sow your Phalaris brachystachys seeds on top of the soil and then lightly press them down a millimetre or two.
- In order to better maintain moisture levels inside the pot – and to increase and speed up germination rates by a day or two – cover it with a couple of layers of Clingfilm.
- Brachystachys requires light to germinate, so place the pot on a sunny windowsill or under artificial lights.
- Depending on your environment, you should see your first sprouts after approximately roughly three to five days. However, don’t despair if yours are slower to appear, as we’ve had them take up to a week to get going in the past.
- The baby Phalaris sprouts benefit from some support, so when it seems as if the majority of the seed has germinated, remove the Clingfilm and sprinkle some sieved soil between the blades. At this point you can throw the Clingfilm away.
- Leave the young Phalaris plants for at least a month or two to expand and develop a strong and healthy root system. If you try to transplant or divide the plants too soon, you may end up with dead or sick brachystachys! Keep them moist at all times for maximum growth; we prefer to bottom-water every four or five days by placing the plant pot into a larger growing container kept partially filled with tap water.
- Once your plants are big and strong (indicating they’ve had enough time to form a well-developed root system), they can be transplanted to either a larger container or the ground.
Optional – Cloning Phalaris brachystachys
- Alternatively, you may instead prefer to use your existing clump of Phalaris to initiate a larger patch of grass. If this is the case, first prepare your ground (or suitable large container) by loosening the soil with a fork or till, removing any weeds or larger debris as necessary.
- Now you’ll need to divide your clump into plugs – for best results, each plug should be a minimum of five centimetres by five centimetres in size. Alternatively, you can either gently separate each plant by hand (ensuring the roots of each remains intact), or simply cut a diamond shape out of the pot using a trowel (or similar), then transplant the corner wedges as plugs.
- At this stage, some growers recommend clipping down the longer foliage so as to reduce the risk of decomposition and encourage new growth. Some also soak the roots/rhizomes of the plants for twelve to twenty-four hours in an organic transplant fertiliser solution (for example, comprising of a few tablespoons each of glacial rock dust and kelp in a few litres of water).
- When planting in containers, place one plug into each, filling in the gaps with some potting soil, perlite/pumice, etc. If you’re planting straight into the ground, space the plugs using their width as a guide and leave roughly half of the plug’s thickness between each of them (for example, for five centimetre square plugs, space them two and a half centimetres apart).
- Give the plant’s rhizomes the time and space to expand – keeping the soil well-watered and free of weeds or other unwanted interlopers – and your Phalaris brachystachys patch should thrive. The great thing about this simple Phalaris cloning technique is that one clump of grass can quickly be propagated indefinitely in order to create a wonderfully ornamental stand!