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Feather grasses belong to the family of sweet grasses (Poaceae) and there are over 300 predominantly perennial species. Their natural habitat is rocky, exposed slopes in the steppes, prairies and tundra of the temperate and warm zones of the earth. Some of species are also native to Central Europe, such as heron feather grass (Stipa barbata) and tufted grass (Stipa capillata).
In the garden, spring grasses thrive best on permeable light soils in open and sunny locations. They grow harried. Their leaves are very thin and usually hairy below. When dry, they tend to curl up. However, the most striking feature of the feather grasses are the fine flower spikes and the awn tails hanging from the flowers, which gently sway back and forth even at the slightest breath of wind. The awns especially come into their own in the evenings, when the sun is lower and the backlight shines through the plants.
The giant feather grass (Stipa gigantea) is - the name reveals it - the largest species
The flowering time is between July and September and the flower color varies depending on the species and variety between white, silvery and yellowish. Among the smallest varieties are the velvet feather grass (Stipa pennata) and the angel hair grass (Stipa tenuissima) with stature heights of 25 to 50 centimeters. The giant feather grass (Stipa gigantea), on the other hand, reaches a height of up to two meters, and the cultivar 'Goldfontäne', bred by the well-known perennial gardener Ernst Pagels, can grow up to 2.5 meters. Feather grasses are indeed perennial grasses, but some species are quite short-lived, for example, the angel grass or the egret feather grass. While the angel grass keeps itself but self-seeding in the garden itself, the latter must be selectively sown again.
Best of all, the different types of feather grass are planted in larger groups, and then, with their fine leaves, they seem like a billowing sea during flowering. But they can also be wonderfully sprinkled in steppe plantings. Good partners for the ornamental grass are other drought-tolerant perennials such as ivory thistles (Eryngium giganteum), stonecrop (Sedum), catnip (Nepeta) or onion flowers such as ball-leeks (Allium sphaerocephalon). Some species also give off very decorative potted plants, but then need winter protection. Since the grass loses some of its ornamental value after flowering, it is important to combine it in the bed with other plants that attract attention.
With all kinds, for example the egret feather grass or the Engelhaargras a spring planting is recommended.
Species such as the heron feather grass catch in the summer and look a bit disheveled after flowering, which is why - if you can not conceal it in the bed with other plants - a pruning is recommended. The angel's grass, however, should only be combed out in the spring and not cut.
Good partners are other drought-tolerant perennials and bulbous flowers like the allspice (Allium sphaerocephalon)
Only the garden forms of feather grass are propagated by division. It is important to ensure that the cuts are not too small, otherwise they are not particularly vigorous.
Further care tips
The species of this genus are very easy to care for and require no additional irrigation or fertilization because of their low site requirements.
Feather grass species are best propagated by sowing and not, like many other ornamental grasses, by division, as the vegetatively propagated plants are less vigorous. Most species spread by self-sowing anyway. Only the varieties must be propagated by division.
Diseases and pests
With high soil moisture, the ornamental grasses tend to rot at the base.