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Plant Profile: Mexican Feather Grass (Stipa tenuissima or Nasellela tenuissima)

My sister in law introduced me to this beautiful grass when I moved to North Carolina. She planted it in a container outside the sliding glass door of her family room where she could sit in her favorite chair and enjoy its movement. The lightest breeze sets the delicate stems and fine feathery flowers in motion providing almost constant movement in the garden. Other plants may sway, the butterflies, bees and birds may fly around, but nothing moves like this grass; it is really very special. Even when there is no breeze the plant provides beauty and calmness to the garden. It grows in a vase-shaped clump and looks like a cascading fountain. I do nothing to care for this grass, not even cut it back for the winter. It looks equally good all season in a container, border, along a walk, or in a xerophytic landscape. The very fine texture of the grass makes a nice contrast with coarser plants like lamb’s ear. It can reseed but is not a problem especially when mulched. It resists disease, deer, and drought, and needs no spraying. This grass gives a lot and needs very little. Great deal!

Type: Perennial grass.

Bloom: Silky green feathery inflorescences are produced in spring and turn brown in summer.

Size: 1-2’ H x 1-2’ W.

Light: Full sun.

Soil: Thrives in fertile, moist, well drained soil but tolerates less as long as soil is well drained.

Hardiness: Zones 7-10.

Fertilizer: Well balanced fertilizer in spring.

Care: Old foliage can be trimmed in late winter to tidy up the garden.

Pests and Diseases: None of significance but susceptible to fungal problems especially if grown in poorly drained soil.

Propagation: Seeds; division of clumps in spring.

Companion plants: Lamb’s ear, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, and other coarse leaved perennials; false sunflower (Heliospsis helianthoides,) Stokes aster, coneflowers, blackeyed Susans (Rudbeckia sp).

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