Elymus virginicus

Virginia Wild Rye

$3.00 - $12.00

1 oz.
1 lb.

Virginia Wild Rye is a graceful, short-lived perennial similar to Canada Wild Rye, but with a smaller, less showy seed head. It actively grows during the spring and fall when soil temperatures are cool. Common companions to this cool season grass are warm season grasses like Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Indian Grass, and Switch Grass. As shown in the above photo, Virginia Wild Rye turns attractive shades of tan and crimson in the fall.

As a fast-growing grass, Virginia Wild Rye is a good choice for erosion control and stream bank stabilization. It prefers rich, moist areas in clearings or along the forest edge, but can also grow in drier, sunny conditions as well. Its tolerance to shade makes it a good pioneer species for woodland restorations, especially when planted along with Bottlebrush Grass. This species readily reseeds. For these reasons it can also be used as a native Cover Crop.  Use 1-5 lbs per acre when seeding with your native seed mix

Various insects feed on Virginia Wild Rye and other species in the Elymus genus, including leafhoppers, aphids, and leaf beetles. Caterpillars of various leaf miner moths mine the leaves of these grasses, and caterpillars of the False Wainscot Moth also eat the leaves. Livestock may forage on Virginia Wild Rye, however as the plant matures, seedheads of Virginia Wild Rye may be sharp and can cause injury to grazing animals so they generally leave it alone later in the season. In a garden setting or a prairie, the sharp awns could pose a risk to pets.

Elymus virginicus - Virginia Wild Rye

Map Key

Present in state
Present but introduced in county
Present and native in county; not rare
Not present in state
Present and native in county; rare
Species extirpated (historic)
State or county listed as noxious
Present in state; exotic

This map shows the native and introduced (adventive) range of this species. Given appropriate habitat and climate, native plants can be grown outside their range.

5 Questions asked on Elymus virginicus

I'm looking to sow only Virginia Wild Rye and potentially some Bottlebrush Grass as a step in my woodland restoration. What seeding rate should I use?
10 pounds per acre would give you a solid stand of Elymus, assuming good planting conditions and germination. That is probably thicker than you want, depending on your end plan. If this is in preparation for a future seeding of woodland forbs, you would want much less. If it is to manage weeds in woodland, it could be effective at a high population.
Can this be successfully sown outdoors in the middle of May (5B)? At this time the warm season grasses are just starting to grow at a noticeable rate. Given this is a cool season grass, with a mid-May sow the rye will be in a seedling stage when the days start getting consistently hot and the species typically goes dormant for a few months.
Hi Karl, Yes, you can still plant now. You didn’t say exactly where you are, but most places in Zone 5 still have soil temperatures in the 60s which is ideal for cool-season grasses. Check out this very helpful soil temperature map.
How long does it take the seeds to germinate this time of year?
Hi Alex, Depending on conditions, you can expect 2-4 weeks for germination.
Can I winter sow Virginia Wild Rye
Hi Mary. You can definitely winter sow Virginia Wild Rye! Although the winter conditions are not necessary for germination, this species is a "cool grass" and puts on most of its top growth in the spring and fall.
Can this species be sown in April in Connecticut? I intend to use Virginia wild rye as a pioneer cover crop for a shady area of lawn for this season. Also, how much mowing does it tolerate, if at all?
Hi Bran. Virginia Wild Rye makes a great cover crop in shaded areas - and it can definitely be sown in April! Consistent mowing is not necessary for this species. Virginia Wild Rye persists in a site primarily through self-sowing, so frequent mowing will quickly deplete the population. It might look raggedy as well, since this grass species goes dormant during the heat of summer and will not recuperate as quickly as traditional lawn grass. The occasional trim is ok, but aim to cut it at about 6" or at the highest setting on your mower deck.


Growing your own plants from seed is the most economical way to add natives to your home. Before you get started, one of the most important things to know about the seeds of wild plants is that many have built-in dormancy mechanisms that prevent the seed from germinating. In nature, this prevents a population of plants from germinating all at once, before killing frosts, or in times of drought. To propagate native plants, a gardener must break this dormancy before seed will grow.

Each species is different, so be sure to check the GERMINATION CODE listed on the website, in the catalog, or on your seed packet. Then, follow the GERMINATION INSTRUCTIONS prior to planting. Some species don't need any pre-treatment to germinate, but some species have dormancy mechanisms that must be broken before the seed will germinate. Some dormancy can be broken in a few minutes, but some species take months or even years.

Seed dormancy can be broken artificially by prolonged refrigeration of damp seed in the process of cold/moist STRATIFICATION. A less complicated approach is to let nature handle the stratifying through a dormant seeding, sowing seeds on the surface of a weed-free site in late fall or winter. Tucked safely beneath the snow, seeds will be conditioned by weathering to make germination possible in subsequent growing seasons.

To learn more, read our BLOG: How to Germinate Native Seeds

Dormant Bare Root Plants

We dig plants when they are dormant from our outdoor beds and ship them April-May and October. Some species go dormant in the summer and we can ship them July/August. We are among the few still employing this production method, which is labor intensive but plant-friendly. They arrive to you dormant, with little to no top-growth (bare-root), packed in peat moss. They should be planted as soon as possible. Unlike greenhouse-grown plants, bare-root plants can be planted during cold weather or anytime the soil is not frozen. A root photo is included with each species to illustrate the optimal depth and orientation. Planting instructions/care are also included with each order.

Download: Installing Your Bare-Root Plants

Potted Plants

3-packs and trays of 32, 38, or 50 plants leave our Midwest greenhouses based on species readiness (being well-rooted for transit) and order date; Spring shipping is typically early May through June, and Fall shipping is mid-August through September. Potted 3-packs and trays of 38 plugs are started from seed in the winter so are typically 3-4 months old when they ship. Trays of 32/50 plugs are usually overwintered so are 1 year old. Plant tray cells are approximately 2” wide x 5” deep in the trays of 38 and 50, and 2.5" wide x 3.5" deep in the 3-packs and trays of 32; ideal for deep-rooted natives. Full-color tags and planting & care instructions are included with each order.

Download: Planting and Care of Potted Plants

*PLEASE NOTE: we are a mail order nursery and have no retail facilities, but you may pick up your order if prior arrangements are made. Pick up orders are subject to **MN Sales Tax.

Shipping & Handling Charges

SEED $100.00 and under: $5.00
Retail SEED orders over $100.00 ship free!

Custom seed mixes or discounted seed sales over $100, add 5% of the total seed cost
(for orders over $1,000 a package signature may be required)

BARE ROOT and POTTED PLANTS $50.00 and under: $9.00
over $50.00: 18% of the total plant cost. (For orders over $1,000 a package signature may be required.)

TOOLS and BOOKS have the shipping fee included in the cost of the product (within the contiguous US).

**We are required to collect state sales tax in certain states. Your state's eligibility and % will be calculated at checkout. MN State Sales Tax of 7.375% is applied for orders picked up at our MN location. Shipping & handling charges are also subject to the sales tax.

Shipping Season

SEED, TOOLS and BOOKS are sent year-round. Most orders ship within 1-3 business days.

BARE ROOT PLANTS are shipped during optimal transplanting time: Spring (April-May) and Fall (Oct). Some ephemeral species are also available for summer shipping. Since our plants are field-grown, Nature sets the schedule each year as to when our season will begin and end. We fill all orders, on a first-come, first-serve basis, to the best of our ability depending on weather conditions beyond our control.

POTTED PLANTS (Trays of 32/38/50 plugs and 3-packs) typically begin shipping early May and go into June; shipping time is heavily dependent on all the species in your order being well-rooted. If winter-spring greenhouse growing conditions are favorable and all species are well-rooted at once, then we ship by order date (first come, first serve). We are a Midwest greenhouse, and due to the challenges of getting all the species in the Mix & Match and Pre-Designed Garden Kits transit-ready at the same time, we typically can't ship before early May. Earlier shipment requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

*We are unable to ship PLANTS (bare root or potted) outside the contiguous US or to CALIFORNIA due to regulations.


We ship using USPS, UPS and Spee Dee. UPS and Spee Dee are often used for expediting plant orders; they will not deliver to Post Office Box numbers, so please also include your street address if ordering plants. We send tracking numbers to your email address so please include it when you order.



Germination Code
Life Cycle
Short-lived Perennial
Sun Exposure
Full, Partial, Shade
Soil Moisture
Wet, Medium-Wet, Medium
4 feet
Bloom Time
July, August
Bird Favorite: seeds, insects, fruit, nectar, nesting, perch
Deer Resistant
USDA Zones
Catalog Code