Mexican Feather Grass: An Introduction
Mexican feather grass is a popular species of plant that is often used as an ornamental grass in landscaped gardens.
Gardeners love how long-lasting, hardy and easy to grow it is while the tufts of wispy, ‘feathery’ grass add a new element to the scene while they sway gently in the breeze.
But the durability that makes Mexican feather grass so attractive to gardeners can provide a problem for novice planters.
While Mexican feather grass grows quickly and easily, it can get out of hand if not cared for properly.
In many countries, it’s considered an invasive species of plant and it can be dangerous to native habitats.
We asked our experts just how invasive Mexican feather grass could be in the UK, and they kindly gave us a few tips too for maintaining it.
What Is Mexican Feather Grass?
Mexican feather grass is a perennial plant species that grows in a wide variety of conditions, and is generally classified under the name Stipa tenuissima.
The plant has had several other classifications in the past, and it goes by many other names colloquially in other parts of the world.
You might find Mexican feather grass named Nassella tenuissima, particularly in Australia, Argentine Needlegrass, or Finestem Needlegrass.
The many different names come from its wide distribution, which is a result of its hardiness. Mexican feather grass is native to the American continents and is commonly found growing wild in the southern United States, northern Mexico, and in Argentina.
However, due to its introduction by gardeners, it can be found in many other parts of the world too.
Mexican feather grass is perennial, meaning that it has a long life and is easy to grow, surviving in many different habitats and environments with ease.
The plant is characterised by its distinctive tussocks, which rise vertically and spread out to form a sort of wide bloom.
These blooms are what makes them attractive to ornamental gardeners, as they can be very decorative or even be taken inside a home if cut nicely.
The grass can grow up to 70 centimetres tall in the right environment.
Mexican feather grass is known to sway gently in the breeze, and is coloured green and yellow with small flowers that bloom in the summer months.
It’s an attractive plant but, as we will discover, it is considered to be an invasive species.
Is Mexican Feather Grass Invasive?
The attributes that make Mexican feather grass such an attractive gardening plant also give it the potential to be an invasive species.
Mexican feather grass isn’t native to the Isle of Wight, or indeed anywhere in the United Kingdom.
It’s an introduced species, noted for its hardiness and perennial qualities because it thrives in almost any environment.
In parts of the United States – particularly California – and in Australia, Mexican feather grass is invasive and can only be planted or nursed under strict controls.
In Australia, it’s even illegal to import the species because it can cause significant damage to that country’s fragile ecosystems.
Mexican feather grass reproduces by producing thousands of seeds that are able to self-sow almost anywhere.
The seeds can spread on the wind, through the air, by water, or countless other methods of transportation.
Mexican feather grass can flourish in cracks, without sunlight, and in almost any location you could imagine.
The seeds can survive for years before sprouting too, making them a ticking time bomb for some countries.
In places like California, the wide-open landscapes provide the perfect conditions for the spread of Mexican feather grass across vast tracts of lands, quickly.
That isn’t such a problem in the UK, where the conditions are very different.
There are fewer wide-open spaces, so the seeds aren’t able to travel as quickly across the environment.
But Mexican feather grass can still be a problem, albeit on a much smaller scale, and it can take over your garden if you’re not careful.
It could even get into your neighbour’s garden and cause them a problem too.
For these reasons, it’s important to know how you can control Mexican feather grass once you’ve planted it in your garden.
Can You Control Mexican Feather Grass? If So, How?
While Mexican feather grass undoubtedly grows easily, it can for this reason also be seen as high maintenance if it gets out of hand. It’s important to know how to control this plant if you want to use it effectively in your garden.
Mexican feather grass can be grown in pots or straight in the ground, but growing it in pots will give you more manageability as you can move it around.
Judge the conditions in your garden before planting, and try to plant the grass in areas that are protected from the wind.
This isn’t because Mexican feather grass can’t handle the wind, but because it can stop those pesky seeds being transported all around the garden.
You can cut back the flowers on Mexican feather grass to help it sprout, so conversely you can stop deadheading your grass if you feel it’s getting unwieldy.
Mexican feather grass is easy to cut and those cuttings can also help you to control its spread because you can decide where you want it to plant in the garden.
Many gardeners like to create a dedicated mini grassland of Mexican feather grass, trying to keep it all in one place rather than growing it in multiple locations.
It’s well-suited in this role, and much easier to manage if you know where it all is to begin with.
How Do You Prevent Mexican Feather Grass From Taking Over Your Garden?
Mexican feather grass grows best in the summer and enjoys bright sunlight and hot conditions. It’s hardy, so it easily survives the winter too, but the colder climate of the United Kingdom gives you plenty of opportunity to stop Mexican feather grass from taking over your garden.
After the summer blooms, you can begin to cut back your Mexican feather grass in the autumn. This not only tidies the plant ready for next season, when it will produce a more vibrant and colourful grass, but also helps to control its spread.
In the colder winter months, the plant won’t be able to grow in the UK as effectively as it would in its native territories in the southern USA for instance.
This window of opportunity gives you the chance to control its growth in parts of your garden where you don’t want it encroaching.
You can weed out any unwanted growths that might have spread around your garden, and keep them cut back so they don’t spread like wildfire in the summer when the sun returns to the Isle of Wight.
This easy growth can be used to your advantage, as long as you keep its unwanted spread under control.
You can take cuttings from your Mexican feather grass and sow them in areas where you want them to grow.
This will automatically help control the wider spread and keep things looking how you want them to in your ornamental garden.
As you’ve seen, Mexican feather grass is beautiful yet potentially divisive amongst gardeners. When it’s grown in controlled conditions, it adds a unique element to an ornamental garden.
However, if it gets out of control then it can be difficult to tame again.
It’s a great addition to your garden, but always be wary before planting Mexican feather grass just anywhere.
If in doubt, have a chat with our expert gardeners at Eddington House Nurseries to find out more.
We’re Here for All Your Nursery Needs
Eddington House Nursery is the place for plants on the Isle of Wight.
We sell Mexican feather grass under the name Stipa tenuissima, and you can rest assured that it’s been carefully grown and cared for.
As well as stocking a huge range of plant products that are grown and nurtured in our nursery by loving gardeners and plant enthusiasts, we also offer expert advice on important topics such as controlling the spread of Mexican feather grass.
Our staff are happy to help you out when it comes to growing and controlling Mexican feather grass, and ensuring its best features are highlighted in your garden.
We stock high quality-plants and we provide high-quality growing advice to match.
Eddington House Nursery is one of the Isle of Wight’s most popular garden nurseries, and you can join us every summer for our famed Rare Plant Fair.
You’ll be able to see Mexican feather grass in full bloom!
Our gardeners are here to help and our expert staff are on hand to assist as well with your planting needs.
To learn more about growing and controlling Mexican feather grass in your garden, or to place an order, contact Eddington Nurseries today.Back to news