Phalaris canariensis | ‘Canary Grass’, ‘Common Canary Grass’ | 50 seeds
Phalaris canariensis, colloquially known by the names ‘Alpiste’, ‘Annual Canary Grass’, ‘Canaria’, ‘Canary Grass’, ‘Common Canary Grass’ and ‘Scagliola’, is a lovely ornamental grass native to the Mediterranean region.
Growing as a coarse and hairless grass that reaches between fifty and two hundred centimetres tall, canariensis normally forms flat, gently tapering leaf blades up to twenty five centimetres long by two centimetres wide. Dense clusters of green to purple-coloured flowers occur from around May to August and are followed by fantastic-looking seed heads (which produce the largest seeds of all the known Phalaris species).
Canariensis is thought to be a domesticated or commercial form of Phalaris Brachystachys (see R.N. Oram’s May 2004 article ‘Phalaris canariensis is a domesticated form of P. brachystachys‘ for more details). It’s also often confused with other members of the Phalaris genus, such as the closely-related species Phalaris arundinacea (‘Reed Canary Grass’), from which it can be distinguished by the shape of its head.
The species is popular globally not only as an ornamental, but as a source of commercial birdseed (generally being mixed for that purpose with cheaper rapeseed and other seeds), industrial flour (employed in the production of fine cotton and silks) and food (for example, as part of a gluten-free diet) too. Further – as with other grass/reed species, such as Arundo donax, Phalaris arundinacea and Phragmites australis – Phalaris canariensis displays much potential as an environmentally-acceptable bio-fuel.
Phalaris canariensis grows quickly and easily from seed in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-9 and is very tolerant to a wide range of habitats, whether dry or wet. Sprinkle seeds in moist fine soil, cover with Clingfilm to retain moisture and leave in full sun to partial shade for three to seven days until the bulk of the seed has germinated. Remove the Clingfilm and keep moist and you’ll soon have your own (delicately pretty) ‘Canary Grass’!
All the seed sold by Arkham’s Botanical was freshly and ethically sourced in 2018.