Leymus condensatus ‘Canyon Prince’

Silver gray foliage drought tolerant groundcovers, Leymus (Elymus) condensatus 'Canyon Prince' (Lyme Grass, Wild Rye) and Artemisia pynocephala 'David's Choice' (Beach Sagebrush) in foreground

Leymus condensatus ‘Canyon Prince’ with Artemisia pynocephala ‘David’s Choice’ in foreground

This is a wonderful grass if you have the space for it and don’t need to try to contain it.  Left to its own devices, Leymus condensatus ‘Canyon Prince’ billows around in a large meadow planting, giving the impression of movement without the slightest breeze. It also makes an effective bank cover, its extensive root system grabbing and tightly holding the soil and its leaves cascading like falling water.  It is especially nice as a background or complement to other plants.

Coming out bright green in spring, this warm-season grass turns a lovely gray-green as the season progresses, ending in a striking late-summer display of wheat-colored seedheads on tall stalks.

It’s only fair to warn those considering this plant that it is decisively invasive.  Infiltration is initially slow, so you may not notice it for some time.  But ultimately this grass will try to take over adjacent plantings, and chopping out advancing pieces may slow but not stop the invasion.

I cut this grass a few inches above the ground in late winter or early spring every year, in part because this provides an opportunity to pull out invasive weeds hiding beneath the grass.  This also allows me to see and remove dead culms that impede the growth of new stems, ensuring that both the plant and the colony retain their dense and appealingly architectural form. New growth begins to return almost immediately after cutting back.

Leymus condensatus 'Canyon Prince' - Giant Wild Rye with rush, Juncus polyanthemos in urban park groundcover landscape design meadow garden, Jeffrey Open Space, Irvine California

Leymus condensatus ‘Canyon Prince’ with Juncus polyanthemos in Jeffrey Open Space, Irvine California

‘Canyon Prince’ grows two to three feet tall with flower stalks another foot or so above the leaves.  Spread is indeterminate, with gradual widening to cover extensive areas if not continuously restrained.  It is best planted where spread need not be controlled, and is striking in a large container along with orange or purple-flowered companions spilling over the sides.  I first saw it, many years ago, in a pot with epilobium and was instantly smitten.

Plant this grass in full sun almost everywhere but in desert or hot interior locations, where it will appreciate either part shade or water.  In sun near the coast it is best with little to no summer water, which will only encourage its rampant spread.



10 thoughts on “Leymus condensatus ‘Canyon Prince’

  1. I like landscaping with this grass too, but don’t find it that fast to get too big here in Berkeley. It’s done as well for me in full sun as in North exposures. It also makes superb cut foliage for arrangements!

      • I love the ‘Canyon Prince’ version of this plant, but it does need some maintenance in the SF Bay Area. I planted three one-gallon plants and now have an area about 20 feet by 10 feet that I keep contained by chopping out runners as they invade nearby plantings. I find it looks better if you cut it to the ground in late winter — otherwise it gets kind of floppy. It comes back quickly, initially green, then turning the most lovely shade of blue-gray.

    • Hi David,
      Do you water this grass in summer? I don’t give mine any water at all. And the regrowth is very fast, starting to shoot upward a few days after cutting to the ground. It didn’t seem all that invasive at first, but these days I am after it with a sharp shovel all the time. I wonder if it’s the warmer temps on this side of the hills.

  2. Hi there,

    Thank you for the great info and pictures on this grass! I’m thinking about using this in a current project…I would love your two cents if you have the time! I’ve grown this one before in client gardens, but only in full sun and where it could grow rambunctiously without invading surrounding plantings.

    I’m looking for an attractive up-close 2-3’ bold-textured blue-green grass for a large planter bed up against a house, on the north west side where it will get only afternoon sun in summer and a bit less in winter (Central California, Santa Cruz area, good sandy-loam soil). In your experience does this look lank/messy in less than full sun? It could have about 8’ x 4’ mostly to itself—I can install bamboo barrier to (I hope) keep it from invading its neighbors.

    Your input would be greatly appreciated!

    Many thanks,


    • I don’t think of Canyon Prince as a stand alone plant as it tends to sprawl with age. It would probably do OK with Western exposure and no other grass has quite that silver gray and wonderful wide blades, but lemon grass or Blue Oat grass have better look as specimens; and a number of succulents like Kniphofia caulescens or Dasylirion berlandieri can make a nice statement

      • ‘Canyon Prince’ is outstanding if you cut it to the ground every year in winter. It sprawls only if not cut back. Summer water also can make it sprawl. I cut it back routinely and do not water it at all and it is one of the best grasses I’ve ever grown.

  3. Where can i obtain seed for this grass? I propagate california native plants avidly and looked all over for sellers of seeds. Any suggestions would be appreciated, thank you!

    • Hello Anthony,

      ‘Canyon Prince’ is propagated by division, not by seed. Any seed offered likely would be of the species, L. condensatus, and not of the cultivar ‘Canyon Prince’.


  4. This is an ideal grass for rural restoration/landscape use. If you live on a larger piece of land where issues like fire, erosion, ecology, wildlife, aesthetics, soil hardpan, water retention, water use, livestock grazing, etc come into play, this is an excellent choice for planting. This species is extraordinarily adaptable where sun, temperature, soil type, gophers and other externalities make for difficult plantings.
    One of the nicest parts of this grass is that it’s appearance is so striking (unlike, say, stipa species) that it is easy to weed around and not accidentally pull up a specimen you meant to save.
    You can easily split up an established specimen and thereby get hundreds of ready made clones for planting.

    My theory is that this species incredible adaptability is why it is very often found in SoCal in the wild. As you travel north, and more rainfall occurs, a more specialized species is favored. And therefore this species becomes more rare.

    But elymus condensatus has valuable attributes not found in many other native grass species, particularly it’s tolerance of shade. It prefers sun, but it can thrive with some shade.

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