How to Grow Stipa Plants

Guide to Growing Feather grass, Spear grass, and Needle grass

Plants belonging to the Stipa genus are hardy perennial grasses. They have stems ranging from 30 cm to 1.8 m (one to six feet) in height.

They bloom in the summer, when they carry feathery flowers.

Some common names for Stipa include Needlegrass, Feather Grass, Bunchgrass, and Spear grass.

Stipa nelsonii
Stipa nelsonii by Matt Lavin.

Stipa Growing and Care Guide

  • Common Names: Feather grass, Needle grass, Spear grass, Black oat grass, Porcupine grass.
  • Life Cycle: Hardy perennial.
  • Height: 12 to 96 inches (30—180 cm).
  • Native: Central and North America, Europe, Asia, and Australasia.
  • Growing Region: Zones 5 to 9.

  • Flowers: Summer.
  • Flower Details: Feathery. Spikelets. narrow panicles. Silvery-grey.
  • Foliage: Evergreen or deciduous. Pale-green, pale-brown. Thick stems. Linear. Rolled, thread-like leaves.

  • Sow Outside: 1/8 inch (3 mm) Start to the middle of spring under a cold-frame.
  • Sow Inside: Germination time: three to four weeks. Temperature: 70°F (21°C). Seven or eight weeks in advance. Transplant outdoors a couple of weeks after the last frost. Space at 12 to 48 inches (30—120 cm).

  • Requirements and care: Full sunlight. Good drainage. Fertile soil. Regular watering until established. Cut back to the ground at the start of spring. Propagate: by division in the spring.
  • Family: Poaceae.
  • Closely Related Species: Grasses.
  • Miscellaneous: Fiber from Stipa tenacissima is called esparto, and is used to make paper, cords, shoes, and baskets. Stipa avenacea is used as a cereal grain. Also referred to as Austrostipa.

How to Grow Needlegrass and Other Stipa

You can start growing Needlegrass, Feather grass, and other Stipa from seed indoors or out. If sowing outdoors then sow at a depth of 3 mm (1/8th inch) in the first half of spring.

They prefer to grow in a fertile soil, in a sunny area of the garden that has good drainage.

If starting off indoors, then seeds should take from 3 to 4 weeks to germinate at a temperature of around 20 to 22 degrees centigrade (68 to 72°F).

Start the growing process about 7 or 8 weeks in advance of when they are due to be transplanted into the garden. Putt out Stipa a couple of weeks after the last frost.

The spacing depends on the Stipa species: bigger species should be planted at about 1 m / 40 inches apart; medium at about 50 cm / 20 inches; and smaller varieties at about 30 to 40 cm / 12 to 16 inches apart.

Caring for Stipa

It is quite easy to care for Stipa plants. Juvenile plants should be well watered, until they become deep-rooted. Every spring cut the Stipa plants back to ground level.

Remove side growth to prevent them from spreading throughout the garden. If you require more plants then they can be propagated by division in the spring.

Common Questions

How many members does the Stipa genus have?

The Stipa genus, commonly referred to as Feather Grass, includes around 200 species.

Do members of Stipa make a good garden or landscaping plant?

Yes, Stipa species are often used in gardens for their graceful, feathery seed heads and their adaptability to various conditions.

Which Stipa species are most frequently grown by gardeners?

The most commonly grown species is Stipa tenuissima, also known as Mexican Feather Grass.

Are members of the Stipa plant genus fragrant?

Stipa species are not known for their fragrance, but rather for their visually appealing, feathery fronds.

What is the perfect location to grow Stipa?

Stipa prefers full sun and well-drained soil. It's excellent for borders, rock gardens, and prairie-style planting.

Is Stipa invasive in the USA, if so in which states?

Currently, some species of Stipa such as Stipa tenuissima can be invasive in some parts of the USA. Always consult local guidelines.

How do I remove Stipa plants from my garden?

To remove Stipa, uproot the plant, making sure to remove all the root system to prevent regrowth.


The Stipa genus (feather grass / needle grass) includes perennial grasses native to temperate and subtropical regions worldwide. They are recognized for their feathery flower panicles and narrow, arching leaves that move gracefully in the wind.

Stipa can be grown from seeds or divisions, planted in spring or autumn. They prefer full sun and well-drained soil. Once established, they are quite drought-tolerant and require little maintenance, aside from an occasional combing to remove old foliage.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Stipa plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Arundo donax and Tricholaen plants.