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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 that have stems ranging from 30 cm to 1.8 m in height.

They bloom in the summer carrying feathery flowers.

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

Stipa nelsonii
Stipa nelsonii by Matt Lavin.



Quick 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.
  • 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 in the first half of spring. They like 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. Start the growing process about 7 or 8 weeks in advance of when they are due to be transplanted into the garden; put 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 apart, medium about 50 cm, and smaller varieties at about 30 to 40 cm 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.


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