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How to grow Stipa tenuissima (Nassella tenuissima)

How to grow Stipa tenuissima

All you need to know about growing Stipa tenuissima (Nassella tenuissima) in our Grow Guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Sow
Sow

Do not Sow in January

Do not Sow in February

Do Sow in March

Do Sow in April

Do not Sow in May

Do not Sow in June

Do not Sow in July

Do not Sow in August

Do not Sow in September

Do not Sow in October

Do not Sow in November

Do not Sow in December

Plant
Plant

Do not Plant in January

Do not Plant in February

Do Plant in March

Do Plant in April

Do Plant in May

Do Plant in June

Do Plant in July

Do Plant in August

Do Plant in September

Do not Plant in October

Do not Plant in November

Do not Plant in December

Flowers
Flowers

Plant does not flower in January

Plant does not flower in February

Plant does not flower in March

Plant does not flower in April

Plant does not flower in May

Plant does not flower in June

Plant does flower in July

Plant does flower in August

Plant does flower in September

Plant does not flower in October

Plant does not flower in November

Plant does not flower in December

Divide
Divide

Do not Divide in January

Do not Divide in February

Do not Divide in March

Do Divide in April

Do Divide in May

Do Divide in June

Do not Divide in July

Do not Divide in August

Do not Divide in September

Do not Divide in October

Do not Divide in November

Do not Divide in December

Cut back
Cut back

Do not Cut back in January

Do not Cut back in February

Do not Cut back in March

Do Cut back in April

Do Cut back in May

Do Cut back in June

Do not Cut back in July

Do not Cut back in August

Do not Cut back in September

Do not Cut back in October

Do not Cut back in November

Do not Cut back in December

At its best
At its best

Plant is not at its best in January

Plant is not at its best in February

Plant is not at its best in March

Plant is not at its best in April

Plant is not at its best in May

Plant is not at its best in June

Plant is at its best in July

Plant is at its best in August

Plant is at its best in September

Plant is not at its best in October

Plant is not at its best in November

Plant is not at its best in December

  • Plant size

    60cm height

    30cm spread

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.

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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


Where to grow Stipa tenuissima

How to grow Stipa tenuissima – Stipa tenuissima growing with penstemon, salvia and achillea
How to grow Stipa tenuissima – Stipa tenuissima growing with penstemon, salvia and achillea

Grow in medium to light, well drained soil in full sun. Stipa tenuissima also grows very well in pots.


How to plant Stipa tenuissima

How to grow Stipa tenuissima – planting Stipa tenuissima as part of a container planting scheme
How to grow Stipa tenuissima – planting Stipa tenuissima as part of a container planting scheme

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.

Where to buy Stipa tenuissima online


Caring for Stipa tenuissima

How to grow Stipa tenuissima - combing out old growth
How to grow Stipa tenuissima – combing out old growth

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

How to grow Stipa tenuissima – dividing Stipa tenuissima
How to grow Stipa tenuissima – dividing 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.

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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