Stipa

Stipa gigantea

A large and diverse family of highly decorative grasses with arching graceful foliage. These elegant perennials are useful in beds or mixed borders, where they provide movement as they sway, even in the lightest breeze.

Family: Poaceae or Gramineae
Botanical Name: Stipa (stee-pa)
Common Names: Feather grass, needle grass, spear grass, golden oats.

Foliage: Deciduous or evergreen, arching, folded or rolled, long linear leaves.

Flowers: A range of flower types from open oat-like sprays to silky, feathery plumes, depending on variety.

Flowering Period: Summer to early autumn.

Soil: Moist but well-drained, moderately fertile soil (Chalk, sand or loam). Acid, alkaline or neutral pH.

Conditions: Full sun. Plant in an east, west or south facing aspect, in a sheltered position.

Habit: Tufted, clump forming.

Type: Perennial.

Origin: Europe, Siberia, Asia, Africa

Hardiness: Reasonably hardy in the UK.

Planting and Growing Stipa

Plant in spring or early autumn, in a well-drained, fertile humus-rich soil, in full sun. They dislike heavy soils, so if you garden on clay grow them in a raised bed.

Ideal for mixed beds, borders and prairie-style plantings. Large forms are useful as a specimen plant in lawns or borders.

The flower plumes can be cut and dried for winter decoration.

Taking Care of Stipa

Pruning Stipa

Trim back the flower stems in winter and cut the leaves back in spring to tidy up the plant before new growth starts.

Pests and Diseases

Generally trouble free.

Propagating Stipa

Sow seed under glass in spring. Transplant the seedlings to their permanent positions in late spring to early summer. Stipa often self seeds in light soils.

Established clumps can be divided in spring.

Popular Varieties of Stipa Grown in the UK

Virtually all of the stipa varieties make good garden plants. Some of the best forms include:

Stipa arundinacea (Pheasant's tail grass) forms mounds of thin green leaves that turn orange-brown in late summer. Augmented by tiny flowers on branching thread-like red stems. Height to 36in (90cm).

Stipa barbata forms mounds of greyish foliage topped by long lasting feathery flower heads with distinctive long showy awns. Height to 18in (45cm).

Stipa calamagrostis (rough feather grass) produces rounded compact tufts of grey-green leaves and silvery to brown flower plumes. Height to 36in (90cm). For sale at Crocus.

Stipa capillata is an upright slender grass with wispy, silvery, needle-like flowerheads in early summer. Height to 36in (90cm).

Stipa gigantea (giant oat grass) is a dramatic clump-forming perennial grass with long, arching leaves. Tall flowering panicles of long yellowish, oat-like spikelets, in June-July. Height to 6ft (2m), spread to 4ft. For sale at Crocus.

Stipa pennata (European feather grass) is a herbaceous grass with erect mid green leaves and feathery creamy or silvery-buff flower plumes in summer. Good for drying and floral arrangements. Height 2-3ft (60-90cm).

Stipa tenuissima (Mexican feather grass) is a delicate wispy grass with hair like leaves and silken flower plumes in summer. The leaves start bright green in spring and mellow to blond in late summer. Height to 18in (55cm). For sale at Crocus. Cultivar 'Angel Hair' is an attractive form producing soft, wispy pony-tails. Height: 24-36in (60-90cm). Seed available from Thompson & Morgan.