Stipa tenuissima, now officially known as Nassella tenuissima, is a compact, evergreen ornamental grass. It has upright clumps of airy silver green foliage, topped with feathery flower heads in summer, and sways gently in the slightest breeze. In late summer, the plant turns a beautiful buff colour.
Stipa tenuissima is an incredibly useful plant in the garden, as it combines well with pretty much all other plants – other grasses, perennials and annuals. Dotted throughout a sunny border, it can unify a planting scheme. It’s an excellent choice for a gravel garden, a naturalistic or prairie border, a coastal garden or a contemporary urban garden. It also works well as ground cover and grows very well in pots. It’s very low maintenance, drought tolerant and is rarely affected by pests and diseases.
Also known as pony tail grass, Mexican feather grass or Texas needle grass, Stipa tenuissima hails from mountainous areas of Texas and Mexico. In parts of the US Stipa tenuissima is considered invasive, thanks to its ability to self seed. In UK gardens, it is much less of a problem but you may find it popping up in cracks in paving, in pots, or in other parts of your garden. Simply leave in situ, dig up and pot on ready to be transplanted to somewhere more suitable, give away or add to the compost heap.
How to grow Stipa tenuissima
Grow Stipa tenuissima in full sun and well drained soil. Comb through in spring or early summer to remove any dead growth. If the plant is flopping or beginning to look messy, cut back hard in late spring or early summer.
More on growing Stipa tenuissima:
Stipa tenuissima: jump links
- Planting Stipa tenuissima
- Caring for Stipa tenuissima
- Propagating Stipa tenuissima
- Growing Stipa tenuissima: problem-solving
- Buying Stipa tenuissima
Where to grow Stipa tenuissima
Grow in medium to light, well drained soil in full sun. Stipa tenuissima also grows very well in pots.
How to plant Stipa tenuissima
Simply dig a hole the size of the root ball, drop the plant into it, firm in and water well. If you’re gardening on heavy soil, add a handful of horticultural grit or sand to the hole before planting.
Watch Monty Don plant Stipa tenuissima in a sunny border at Longmeadow, and explain how to encourage it to thrive:
If growing Stipa tenuissima in a pot, make sure your chosen container has drainage holes at the bottom. Add some crocks at the base, then plant into peat-free multipurpose compost with some grit or perlite added to aid drainage.
Caring for Stipa tenuissima
Stipa tenuissima is an evergreen grass, so should not be cut back in late winter along with deciduous grasses such as Stipa gigantea. Instead, in April or May, comb through the grass with your fingers (wear gloves) or a rake to remove any old foliage or seed heads – the old growth should come away easily.
If your plants are beginning to look a bit messy or have got very wet in heavy rain, you can cut them back hard in late spring or early summer. They will soon regrow.
Stipa tenuissima is drought tolerant when established, so there is no need to water your plant. Do not feed or mulch Stipa tenuissima – it does best on poorer soils. Too rich a soil will encourage floppy growth.
How to propagate Stipa tenuissima
As Stipa tenuissima gently self seeds, you may find that you have plenty of plants in your garden already. Alternatively, for lots of plants to dot about the garden, sow seeds in a cold frame in spring. You can also divide existing plants from mid-spring to early summer.
Growing Stipa tenuissima: problem solving
Stipa tenuissima is rarely affected by any problems and deer, rabbits, slugs and snails don’t show much interest in it. It does, however have a tendency to flop in heavy soil and the foliage can become flattened by heavy rain. If the plant begins to look very messy, cut it back in late spring or summer and it should resprout.
Advice on buying Stipa tenuissima
- You can find Stipa tenuissima in garden centres in spring and summer
- You may also find plug plants available online – these will quickly bulk up and are an economical way of buying plants
- Check that you have the right conditions in your garden – Stipa tenuissima likes well drained soil and a sunny spot
Where to buy Stipa tenuissima online