Mexican feather grass looks like a hazy smudge of golden color in the distance, and who wouldn’t want that as a backdrop in the garden?
Like other grasses in the Stipa genus, Mexican feather grass develops delicate pale green flowers which turn wheat-colored, at the tips of stems that move in a breeze. In addition to looking beautiful, it requires little water, intermingles easily with other perennials, and will provide structure in a garden bed nearly year-round.
In addition to Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima or Nassella tenuissima), there are many other useful varieties of feather grasses; heights, colors, and growing tendencies differ. For landscaping ideas, here are a dozen of our favorite gardens with feather grasses:
White flowers with yellow centers pop against a backdrop of Mexican feather grass. In my garden, I planted a bed of grasses and low-water perennials including Echinacea ‘White Swan.’ To recreate the look, plant a mix of Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ ($14 apiece from White Flower Farm) and Stipa Tenuissima ($8.79 apiece from High Country Gardens). Both ship for fall planting.
A variety of grasses, including feathery Stipa gigantea, solve problems in a Dorset garden sited “mostly on an exposed, north-facing slope,” says UK-based designer Robert Kennett. “This border looks particularly dazzling when its architectural shapes are covered in frost.” A 4-inch pot of Stipa Gigantea available seasonally from Annie’s Annuals for $8.95.
In the same Dorset garden, designer Robert Kennett planted Mexican feather grass at the front of a border to “billow in the breeze…for a dynamic dimension.”
A mix of grasses—including Liriope muscari ‘Big Blue’ Lily Turf, Nassella tenuissima Mexican Feather Grass, and Maiden Grass—creates a softly textured and layered look in this terraced garden in Seattle. See Landscaping Ideas: A Sunken Verdant Courtyard for a Seattle Home on a Slope.
Mexican feather grass planted alongside the driveway helps “soften things up and disguises the ugly fence,” says blogger Morgan Satterfield, who replaced her lawn with a grant from the local water district. For more, see Home Turf: Goodbye to a Front Lawn.
Mexican feather grass is planted in clumps at the edge of Austin, Texas-based landscape architect Tait Moring’s driveway. See more in Landscape Architect Visit: At Home with Tait Moring in Austin, TX.
Garden designer Jennifer Segale planted Mexican feather grass in pots in her own garden: “Stipa and other grasses give movement, which I find is incredibly important in container gardens,” she says. “Clusters of potted plants can feel heavy and stagnant without a feeling of openness and ample movement.” For more, see Garden Visit: My Driveway Oasis in Half Moon Bay, California.
Up on the Roof
In Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood, designer Marni Majorelle of Alive Structures created a wild, naturalistic tapestry for a rooftop garden atop a townhouse. For more, see Brooklyn Oasis: A City Roof Garden, Before & After.
In this garden bed, plants include silvery Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’, perennial grass Stipa tenuissima, and purple spikes of Russian sage. For more, see Rehab Diaries: The Resurrection of a Medieval Nobleman’s Garden.
In winter, Dutch designer Piet Oudolf leaves perennial grasses standing to create moody textures and silvery color in the landscape.
At the front of a garden bed in northern Italy designed by Turin-based Cristiana Ruspa, a clump of Stipa tenuissima shoots up like a flame against the lower profiles of artemisia and shorter grasses.
For more of our favorite ways to use grasses in a garden, see Grasses: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design in our Garden Design 101 guides. Read more: