Content Detail

Virginia wild rye is a cool season, clumping grass similar to Canada wild rye (Elymus canadensis). It is more tolerant of shade and prefers a more fertile soil. This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

  • Family (English) Grass
  • Family (botanic) Poaceae
  • Tree or plant type Grass, Perennial
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large plant (more than 24 inches)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9, Zone 10
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances clay soil, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early summer, midsummer, late summer, mid fall, late fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Other
  • Shape or form Upright

Size and Form: 

Virginia wild rye is a fairly upright grass, growing about 3 feet tall.

Native geographic location and habitat: 

This grass is common throughout much of North America. C-Value: 4

Leaf description: 

The alternate leaves are about 1/2 inch wide and 12 inches long, with a rough surface and green color. The foliage turns tan in winter.

Flower description: 

Tiny, green flowers are held in upright spikes, appearing in mid-summer. The spikes feature medium length awns (bristles). The flowers are wind pollinated.

Fruit description: 

The small fruit (caryopsis or grains) are held in the upright spikes. The fruit is tan in fall and winter.

Plant care: 

Virginia wild rye prefers full sun to light shade and moist soil. This is a cool season grass, so its most active growth occurs in spring and fall. Unlike many other cool season grasses, it will go dormant in winter, but can still act as winter interest. It should not be cut back until early spring before new growth begins. At that time, it can be cut down to the ground.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

This plant has no serious pest problems.


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