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Mexican feather grass - should I cut back?


Bit confused about whether or not to do this as have read some conflicting advice. My stipas are coming into their third season, are pretty big now and full of thatchy straw, which I’ve combed out as much of as possible, but as shown the photos there is still a lot of it. I staked them recently as they were flopping all over the place. Should I cut back to near ground level to try and generate some fresh green growth? If I do this, could I also try dividing them too at the same time or will that put too much stress on them? We’re in Edinburgh incase climate makes a difference (I read that they will perform more like evergreens in some climates, in which case I presume you would not cut them back?).

Many thanks


  • rachelQrtJHBjbrachelQrtJHBjb South BucksPosts: 568
    Stipa tenuissima is short-lived and I find that after a couple of seasons I'm looking for seedlings in the border that can use to replace them. Also, if the soil is fertile that can lead to flopping during the growing season. If you grow echinacea amongst it they can provide some support.

    If none of the thatch, as it were, is coming out with combing, and tugging is simply pulling out tufts from the base, you have two options: remove and try a new plant (or find a self set one) to replace, or do as some nurseries do and shear them off as you have done with your miscanthus. There should be some new growth that comes through but you can't get away from the problem of seeing the cropping line towards the base.

    Stipa pseudoichu could be an alternative as it tends to stand up much better. It is more airy that tenuissima and much taller. If you get the RHS Garden mag - the one that arrived in the last few days - you will see there's a feature on a small town garden with a prairie planting theme. The wafting grasses on the right hand side of the double page spread are Stipa pseudoichu. They also catch the light beautifully.

    Finally, if you like a grassy look but want something evergreen, consider Libertia grandiflora as an alternative towards the front of the border.
  • bac2aribac2ari Posts: 2
    Thanks very much - that is extremely helpful. I have more than a few volunteer seedlings growing in the beds that I’ve left alone as I thought they might be needed. I’ll definitely check out the alternative ideas as planning on rejigging things quite a bit this year. I might also try doing a combo of cutting back some & replacing some & see what happens. Thanks again. 
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