Becca Dickstein / Native Roots

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Cecil Carter/Courtesy photo
Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima) is a small- to medium-size perennial grass with airy foliage.

Mexican feather grass adds contrast

Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima) is valuable in landscapes because of its airy, delicate foliage that sways gently in the breeze.

Because its foliage persists even when it is dormant, it adds four-season beauty to North Texas gardens. Mexican feather grass’ soft leaves provide contrast to more rigid leaves of other plants and garden hardscape.

This fountain-like perennial bunchgrass is native to West Texas, New Mexico and Mexico. It is small- to medium-size, growing 1 to 2 feet tall, with flower spikes adding up to an additional foot in height. The finely textured light green leaves are tightly furled inward, giving them a graceful, filamentous look.

Mexican feather grass flowers in late spring with 6- to 12-inch silvery-white to very light green spikelet flower clusters, or panicles, that stand above the leaves. The flowers have slender awns that are 2 to 3 inches long. The panicles ripen to golden brown in the summer and into fall.

Mexican feather grass thrives in full sun and can tolerate partial shade. It does well in most soil types, but it must have good drainage.

Like many Texas natives, Mexican feather grass may need supplemental water during its first growing season. After it is established, it will thrive with existing rainfall. It is drought tolerant, although it can go dormant during an extended drought. It cannot tolerate excessive moisture.

Because of its small size, Mexican feather grass can be grown in containers. It can be propagated by seed, which can be collected in the summer by combing through the plant. In the winter, even though it is mostly dormant, cutting it can slow the plant down from new growth in the spring, so don’t cut it back until new spring growth appears.

Its leaves may be used by birds for nesting material. The plant is deer-resistant.

Look for the NICE! (Natives Instead of Common Exotics!) Plant of the Season signs and information sheets on your next visit to a participating North Texas nursery. Participating businesses include Four Seasons Nursery, Meador Nursery and Painted Flower Farm, all in Denton; Schmitz Garden Center in Flower Mound, and Shades of Green Nursery in Frisco. Thank you for using native plants in your landscapes.

BECCA DICKSTEIN, a member of the Trinity Forks Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas, is on the University of North Texas biological sciences faculty.

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