Growing Stipas in Containers- Growing Pheasant Grass or Mexican Feather Grass

Stipa make great plants in containers
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In this article, we will discuss how to grow Stipa tenuissima, now officially known as Nassella tenuissima, in containers. Mexican feather grass as it is commonly known is grown for the clumps of airy, hairy-like evergreen leaves and for their delicate flowers that are produced in summer.

Stipa make great plants in containers
Stipa make great plants in containers

The flowers look elegant as they sway in a summer breeze. In late summer the leaves turn a bronze colour with orange and red streaks that lasts all winter through.

It is a plant that gives colour in spring and summer and different colours in winter. What more can you ask for a plant.

You can grow this plant as a sole specimen or it can be combined with other grasses, perennials or annuals in a unique container display. This is a low maintenance plant that once established is drought tolerant.

The plant hails from the mountainous regions of Texas and Mexico, where in certain areas it is considered invasive because of its tendency to self-seed everywhere. If you are lucky enough to get a volunteer then you can dig them up and transplant them to other areas of the garden or to other containers. If you are blest with too many for your own garden then you can give them away. Your gain is other people’s gift.


First, you will need to select a container that is within and suits the dimensions of the plant you have bought. Make sure it has plenty of drainage holes at the bottom of the container to help to prevent the compost from getting waterlogged.

Fill the bottom of the container with a 2cm layer of gravel and to this add a good quality, multipurpose compost where a handful of grit has been added to it.  Dig a hole slightly bigger than the root ball it came in the container and then drop the plant in at the same level it came in the original housing- no deeper or no shallower. Backfill with the growing media, using more if any gaps in the root area remain. Firm the plant in and water well.

Stipa arundinacea
Stipa arundinacea

Place your container so that it is in full sun. In spring to early summer, use a hand rake or your fingers to comb out any dead growth.  If your plant looks messy and is flopping all over, it is best to cut back hard in late spring or early summer.

Do not cut back in late winter as you would do with deciduous grasses. Water well during the first year until the plant is well established, as the grass will become drought tolerant.

This is one plant that does not need fertilizing as it prefers to be grown in poor soil. So do not feed unless the plant does not look too healthy.


The plant does not really suffer from many pests or diseases and this is why it is a desired plant in the container garden.

One problem is that it does have a tendency to fall over in heavy soils or the leaves tend to get flattened when it has rained heavily. As said previously if this happens, you can cut it back hard in late spring to early summer to cause the plant to re-sprout and look its best.


 Nassella tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass) forms clumps of soft green, hair-like leaves with a succession of lighter green flowers in summer.  The variety to look for is ‘Angel Hair’.

Stipa gigantea
Stipa gigantea

Stipa arundinacea (Pheasant’s Tail Grass) has loose, arching clumps of leaves that are tinted orange, yellow and red. In summer, masses of hazy pink flowers appear. Not a long-lived plant that often dies after 5 years but it will self-seed regularly.

Stipa gigantea (Celtica gigantea) can be grown in large containers where the giant oat will form clumps of tough leaves. Above these leaves elegant, upright large golden-oat like flowers appear in late spring. The varieties to look out for is ‘Gold Fountain’ or ‘Goldilocks’.


In this article, we have discussed how to grow Stipa tenuissima that has been renamed Nassella tenuissima in containers. Although this is the main thrust of the article, other Stipas have been discussed such as Stipa arundinacea and Stipa gigantea.

They are easy to look after apart from watering when required and an annual tidy up to get rid of dead leaves and flowers. They do not even need to be fed so great for those who want a plant that flourishes because of neglect.

If you have any questions or comments that you wish to make on growing Stipas in containers, please do so in the comment box below.

Happy Stipa growing.


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