What is soft and feathery,
tough and hardy,
and a great place for the cat to hide in?
Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima)!
Today is Foliage Follow-Up, hosted by Pam at Digging and my foliage plant-of-choice for today is an ornamental grass which is a beautiful addition to the perennial garden.
Native only to the mountains of far West Texas, New Mexico and southwards to central Mexico, it also has a native population in Argentina and Chile. Everywhere else, it’s an introduced species and for home gardeners and commercial landscapers, a welcomed one. Graceful and elegant,
and an unusual silvery-green color,
it’s xeric even though it looks delicate and beautiful.
While Mexican Feather Grass is stunning in full sun,
it is a plant that can take some shade. These two new ones receive only dappled light and I expect that they’ll grow well. I’ve seen Mexican Feather Grass in a in a variety of places as an understory ground cover and it works nicely.
These are a little over a year old, and get direct sun only during the summer. This is what they looked like about six weeks ago
and what they look like now.
The Mexican Feather grass normally blooms in late spring/summer, but mine have started a bit early this year (like so many other plants). These plants will seed out, though I’ve never had many seedlings develop–until recently. I was weeding one of my beds and discovered about 20 seedlings!! There are others elsewhere in my gardens, too. Wow! I’ll give them to my friends! I’ll give them to my enemies! I’ll buy a new house with a bigger lot and plant them there!
Well, maybe for now, I’ll just enjoy the ones that I have planted in the gardens.
Many people (myself included…) have made the mistake of pruning these lovely plants like other ornamental grasses are pruned, that is to say, snipped straight across, close to the ground. Don’t do that!! It takes forever for them to grow out and they just look stupid for a long time. The best thing to do when you notice that the Feather Grass seems to have more brown than green, is to gently run your hands through the plant and pull out the “dead” strands. They’ll come loose easily and this combing should leave your plant with green, healthy strands. I’ve done this at various times of the year, as needed.
What I’ve also found over time in my gardens is that sometimes Feather Grass rots out, especially if planted in heavy, clay soil.
The two above have been in the ground for 5-6 years and I believe the one on the left is declining. Is it the soil? Maybe, although the one to the right still looks good and has new, fresh growth. If you want this plant, I wouldn’t hesitate to plant in heavy soil-just be aware that it might not be a long-lived perennial.
Mexican Feather Grass also makes a great container plant, as well. It will need some supplemental water, but doesn’t require constant watering.
It’s a great plant to soften the edges of a garden,
or mix with spiky, more architectural plants.
Mexican Feather Grass is versatile, hardy, easy-to-care-for and beautiful–in short, a great addition to the home landscape. And, while it’s good for Kitty to hide behind,
it’s also great for silly, metal birds, too.