Stipa Tenuissima Growing Guide

Stipa Tenuisima

Stipa Tenuissima, also known as the hairy needle grass or Mexican feather grass, is a graceful ornamental grass known for its elegantly cascading foliage. With its delicate and wispy appearance, Stipa Tenuissima adds a soft, feather-like texture to gardens and landscapes.

Native to southern Europe, northern Africa, and parts of Asia, the hardy Stipa Tenuissima thrives in hot, arid climates. While it prefers full sun exposure, this ornamental grass is able to tolerate drought, poor soils, and even partial shade. Its adaptability makes it suitable for a wide range of garden settings and styles.

Stipa Tenuissima works beautifully as a focal point or accent plant in ornamental grass gardens, rock gardens, containers, and more. Whenplanted en masse, its fine texture creates beautiful movement and contrast. As an added bonus, the flowers of Stipa Tenuissima develop striking wheat-like seed heads that provide visual interest. With proper care, this clumping ornamental grass can add graceful, cascading elegance to gardens for years.

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Stipa Tenuissima Care and Growing Guide

Caring for Stipa Tenuissima is relatively simple, as it is naturally adapted to dry conditions. Provide the right growing environment and this ornamental grass will thrive with minimal maintenance. Here is a detailed growing guide to help your Stipa Tenuissima flourish.


Stipa Tenuissima can be planted in spring after the last frost through early fall. Choose a site with full sun exposure and well-draining soil. Amend heavy clay soils with organic matter like compost to improve drainage. Plant the clumps 2-3 feet apart to allow sufficient room for the foliage to arch outward. Dig a hole twice the width and depth of the root ball and backfill with native soil. Water thoroughly after planting and mulch around the base with 2-3 inches of organic mulch.


Stipa Tenuissima is highly drought tolerant once established and requires little supplemental water. Provide infrequent, deep soakings during prolonged dry spells for best results. The foliage will temporarily droop during extreme heat or drought as a protective mechanism, reviving with irrigation. Overwatering can lead to root rot and leaf spot diseases.

Signs of underwatering:

  • Wilting or folding foliage
  • Foliage browning at tips

Signs of overwatering:

  • Yellow, mushy foliage
  • Dead sections in clumps
  • Root rot


For best growth and flower production, plant Stipa Tenuissima in full sun locations with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. The foliage will thin out and become lanky with insufficient sunlight. Stipa Tenuissima can tolerate light shade but may not bloom as prolifically. Avoid dense shade, which can cause open, floppy growth. Morning sun with afternoon shade is ideal for hot climates.


Stipa Tenuissima thrives in lean, sandy, well-draining soils and requires little fertility. Add compost or well-rotted manure to clay soils to improve drainage. The ideal pH range is 6.0-7.0. Avoid overly rich, fertile soils which can cause floppy, open growth. Ensure the soil drains rapidly after rain or irrigation to prevent root rot diseases.

Tips for improving soil:

  • Amend heavy clay soils with compost
  • Add horticultural sand to improve drainage
  • Mulch annually with compost or shredded bark


Apply a balanced granular fertilizer in early spring before new growth emerges. Slow release organic fertilizers are ideal, applied at half strength. liquid fertilizers can provide a growth boost during summer if foliage appears pale. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers which lead to weak, floppy growth. Signs of overfertilization include excessive foliage growth, reduced flowering, and susceptibility to diseases.

Stipa Tenuissima Design Ideas and Inspiration

With its fine texture and graceful movement, Stipa Tenuissima blends beautifully into both formal and natural garden styles. Here are some ideas for incorporating this grass into different garden settings:

Rock Gardens

The mounded habit and delicate texture of Stipa Tenuissima pairs nicely with rugged rock gardens, boulders, and gravel mulch. Interplant clumps in crevices and pockets between rocks and boulders. The arching foliage and seed heads will cascade over the edges, softening hard surfaces while the slender blades won’t obscure small alpine plants. Plant en masse for beautiful drifts of texture and motion.

Borders and Edgings

Use Stipa Tenuissima as a flowing edging along pathways, borders, and beds. The wispy foliage and branched seed heads create visual interest and soften edges. Allow the blades to mingle with neighboring perennials like lavender, yarrow, coreopsis, and salvias. Stipa Tenuissima helps transition smoothly between distinct garden spaces.


The fine texture and compact habit of Stipa Tenuissima makes it well suited for containers. Plant one or more clumps in pots or planters for the patio, balcony, or doorstep. Choose wide, shallow containers at least 10-12 inches deep to accommodate the fibrous root system. Stipa Tenuissima also combines beautifully with succulents, herbs, and annuals in mixed plantings.

Stipa Tenuissima FAQs

Q. How tall does Stipa Tenuissima grow?

Stipa Tenuissima typically grows 2-3 feet tall and spreads 1-2 feet wide. Some varieties may reach 4 feet tall. The foliage arises in a dense, erect clump with arching stems extending outward.

Q. Does Stipa Tenuissima need to be trimmed?

Stipa Tenuissima generally requires little maintenance beyond removing old foliage in late winter before new growth begins. The previous year’s leaves and stems can be trimmed to the base. Avoid cutting back further into the clump.

Q. Is Stipa Tenuissima invasive?

While it readily self-seeds in ideal growing conditions, Stipa Tenuissima is not considered invasive in most regions. The seeds do not typically spread far from the parent plant. Avoid planting near wild or natural areas where any reseeding is undesirable.

Q. How does Stipa Tenuissima spread?

Stipa Tenuissima spreads slowly via short rhizomes to form loose clumps. Mature clumps can be divided every 2-3 years in early spring. New plants can also be started by sowing freshly harvested seeds in fall.

Q. What are the best companion plants for Stipa Tenuissima?

Try combining Stipa Tenuissima with other ornamental grasses like Miscanthus, Muhlenbergia, and Panicum for textural contrast. It also pairs well with lavender, sage, coreopsis, yarrow, Verbena, and Asclepias.

Final thoughts

With its exceptionally narrow foliage and graceful, cascading habit, the delicate Stipa Tenuissima deserves a spot in gardens that need fine texture contrast. This adaptable, low-maintenance grass thrives with minimal care and provides elegant movement whether used as an accent, planted en masse, or in containers. For gardeners seeking an airy, wispy plant that sways gracefully in the breeze, Stipa Tenuissima is a beautiful option to consider.


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