Although in the past great attention has been devoted to coastal stabilization, the effect of aquatic vegetation on wave characteristics (damping and retardance etc) is still not well known. In this context an experimental study was performed in an irregular wave flume to explore the effect of reeds (phragmites australis) on wave damping and retardance. Further for a given vegetated area the effect of wave characteristics (i.e. wave height, wave period and wave steepness) on wave damping and retardance were discussed. Real reeds (phragmites australis) with diameter less than 5 mm were employed throughout the experiments for the emergent case. A dimensionless number was introduced to characterize both the vegetated area magnitude and the effect of the vegetation on wave damping and retardance.