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NASSELLA tenuissima

Image of Nassella tenuissima

Gerald L. Klingaman

Family

Poaceae

Botanical Name

NASSELLA tenuissima

Plant Common Name

Finestem Needlegrass, Mexican Feather Grass

General Description

Fountain-shaped clumps of fine-textured leaves and puffy seed plumes makes the Mexican feather grass one of the most beautiful ornamental grasses for low-maintenance landscapes. This semi-evergreen perennial is native to the southwestern United States (Texas and New Mexico) to central Mexico, with an adjunct population in Argentina and Chile. Mexican feather grass - also called finestem needlegrass - grows in the open woods on slopes and rocky flats in well-drained soils.

This grass is semi-evergreen and grows in the cooler months when moisture is abundant. When summer heat and drought becomes extreme, the plant turns tan and enters dormancy. In some climates, growth is from spring to fall with the tan-colored foliage dormancy in the frosty winter months.

The green to pale silver-green, thread-like leaf blades are glossy and look like tufted clumps in great numbers. Anytime from early to late summer, upright stems bear clusters (panicles) of tiny silvery white flowers above the foliage. These flowers are wind pollinated and turn into feathery, soft-looking seed heads that turn tan and gold. Frost or drought kills the leaves, creating an architecturally pretty skeleton. Once soil moisture and proper temperatures coincide again, new leaf blades grow to renew the grass clump.

Grow Mexican feather grass in full sun and moderately fertile, well-drained soil. Wet soil causes rot and plant death, and pull back mulch to ensure the grass clump's crown doesn't remain damp. If planted in moist, very fertile garden soils, this grass can self-sow and become quite weedy. It does grow well in containers, however. Use Mexican feather grass in a meadow or rock garden design, as a companion to annual bedding plants or in massed groups in foundation beds or mixed borders. Cut back the dry, dead foliage either in early fall (in regions where summers are hot and dry and winters are mild and rainy) or late winter (where winters have freezes and summers are warm but rainy).

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    11 - 4

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    6 - 10

  • Sunset Zone

    2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Grass

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    20"-36" / 50.8cm - 91.4cm

  • Width

    22"-36" / 55.9cm - 91.4cm

  • Bloom Time

    Early Summer, Summer

  • Native To

    Southwestern United States, Texas, Mexico

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Drought

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Yellow Green, Ivory

  • Fruit Color

    Yellow Green, Tan, Ivory, Silver

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Yellow Green, Tan

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Yellow Green, Tan

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green, Yellow Green, Gold, Tan

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Fine

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Semi-Evergreen

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Dried Flower / Everlasting, Container, Foundation, Mixed Border, Rock Garden / Wall

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Sometimes

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes