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An Overview of Growing and Maintaining the Stipa gigantea - The Giant Golden Oat - Feather Grass in the UK

 Stipa gigantea - The Giant Feather Grass or Golden Oat Grass - is normally an evergreen, but sometimes in severe winters - or some planting situations - merely semi evergreen. Whichever, it is a perennial so will grow back each year - quickly! It prefers a dry soil - but will tolerate damp but not waterlogged.

If you’re a UK gardener looking for an easy to maintain grass that adds a unique visual dynamic to your lawn or garden bed, look no further than the Stipa gigantea. This ornamental perennial grass is renowned for its attractive, fluffy flower spikes and hardy demeanor - making it ideal for gardens all around Britain. Not only does the Stipa gigantea bring incredible texture to any outdoor space but it also requires minimal maintenance once established, making it an excellent addition even for amateur gardeners. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at everything there is to know about growing and maintaining this stunning species in your exterior landscape.

Overview of Stipa gigantea, a native species of grass to the UK

Stipa gigantea, commonly known as giant feather grass, is a magnificent and striking native grass species found throughout the UK. As its name suggests, this species of grass can grow to impressive heights, reaching up to two metres in tall clumps. Its long, spear-like leaves are topped with delicate-looking, wispy flowerheads that sway in the slightest breeze. Stipa gigantea is tolerant of a range of soil types and can thrive in full sun or light shade. This grass is a popular choice for gardeners looking to create a naturalistic planting scheme, as it adds a sense of movement and texture to any landscape. Additionally, its hardiness and low maintenance requirements make it an ideal species for large-scale planting projects or for those looking to attract wildlife to their gardens.

The History of the Stipa gigantea in the UK

The Stipa gigantea, also known as the Giant Feather Grass or Golden Oats, is a species of perennial grass native to southern Europe and western Asia. It has gained popularity in the UK due to its stunning appearance and low-maintenance nature. Here, we'll explore the history of Stipa gigantea in the UK, tracing its journey from its origins to its current status as a beloved ornamental plant.

Origins and Introduction to the UK

Stipa gigantea is a member of the Poaceae family, which consists of over 10,000 species of grasses spread across the world. Its natural habitat ranges from Spain and Portugal to western Turkey, thriving in dry, rocky soils and open grasslands. The plant can grow up to 2.5 meters tall, with long, slender leaves and large, feathery flower heads that catch the light and sway gracefully in the wind. The exact date of Stipa gigantea's introduction to the UK is uncertain, but it is believed to have been brought to Britain sometime during the 18th century. Early horticulturists and plant enthusiasts were captivated by this striking grass, and it quickly caught the attention of gardeners who began incorporating it into their designs.

Growing Popularity in the UK

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Stipa gigantea continued to gain popularity among British gardeners for its architectural form, elegant movement, and low-maintenance requirements. The plant is drought-tolerant and can thrive in various soil types, making it an excellent choice for gardens with challenging conditions. In the 20th century, influential garden designers such as Gertrude Jekyll and Piet Oudolf embraced the use of grasses, including Stipa gigantea, in their garden designs. These designers emphasized the importance of texture and movement in gardens, and the Giant Feather Grass perfectly embodied this aesthetic.

Contemporary Use and Cultivation

Today, Stipa gigantea is a popular choice for UK gardens, both in private homes and public spaces. It is often used as a focal point in planting schemes due to its impressive height and striking appearance. The plant's golden flower heads create a stunning contrast against green foliage, and its feathery texture adds an element of movement that brings gardens to life.

Stipa gigantea is also valued for its ecological benefits, as it provides habitat and food for various insects and birds. Additionally, its deep root system helps improve soil structure and prevent erosion.

To cultivate Stipa gigantea in the UK, gardeners should choose a sunny location with well-drained soil. The plant is relatively low-maintenance, requiring only occasional watering and some pruning to remove dead leaves or flower stalks.


The history of Stipa gigantea in the UK is a testament to the enduring appeal of this remarkable grass. From its introduction in the 18th century to its current status as a beloved ornamental plant, Stipa gigantea has captured the hearts of British gardeners with its beauty, versatility, and low-maintenance nature. As more people recognize the ecological benefits of incorporating grasses into their gardens, the popularity of Stipa gigantea is likely to continue growing in the years to come.

Invasive, Spreading!

Stipa gigantea in mid summer - The Giant OatIt has a reputation for being an invasive grass, but this is unjustified in my opinion. It forms a dense tuft of often untidy foliage, but does not send out any underground stems or rhizomes with which to spread. It certainly produces a few seedlings in the early spring, and these can pop up anywhere within the garden. They are easily pulled out, or better still, popped into pots to grow on and give to friends - or sell off at plant fairs!

Stipa gigantea is different to most ornamental grasses - Stipas or not. It has long flower stems - often in excess of 2metres in height. The flowers and following seed heads on top are not as dense or showy as the other tall grass - Pampas.

They are much daintier and not as dense as other grasses.

The flower spikes are happy waving about in a breeze well above the main plants growing below it. For this reason it is a welcome addition to shrub or perennial planting schemes, or simply planted as a stand alone specimen in its own bed. I have never seen a full bed of Stipa gigantea. Let me have a picture if you so decide, but strive to get a bit of other interest between the clumps of foliage. 

Penstemons, asters or maybe some Rudbeckia. Sorry - I wander!

Propagation of Stipa gigantea

Stipa gigantea is related to the agricultural crop of oats that the farmer is happy to grow, but of course much taller. Like all Oat grasses, the seeds germinate readily, so no problem sowing them to grow in the spring. If you already have a plant growing in the garden, just take a walk and harvest the seedlings you find. If you decide to sow seeds, then early spring is the time, and keep them in a cool place. Sow in seed trays and pot up individual seedlings to grow on and plant out.

The best propagation method for Stipa gigantea, also known as Giant Feather Grass, is by division or sowing seeds.


Divide the plant in early spring or fall when the plant is dormant. Carefully dig up the parent plant and use a sharp knife or spade to divide the root ball into smaller sections. Each section should have a healthy piece of root and some growing shoots. Replant the divisions in well-draining soil, spaced appropriately for their mature size. Water the new plants thoroughly and keep them watered until they are established.

Sowing Seeds:

Collect seeds from mature Stipa gigantea plants in late summer or early fall. Sow the seeds in a seed tray or small pots filled with a well-draining, seed compost mix. Cover the seeds lightly with compost and keep them moist but not soggy. Place the tray or pots in a cold frame or greenhouse for the winter. The seeds will germinate in spring as temperatures rise. Once the seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant them into individual pots and grow them on until they are ready for planting out in their final position.

Remember that Stipa gigantea prefers full sun and well-draining soil, so choose an appropriate location for your new plants.

They normally flower in the first year, but an early sowing and growing on well will be needed for 100% certainty.

The clump can also be divided in the spring, and in any event will almost certainly need a bit of a tidy up. 'Combing' with a garden rake is my preferred method. Wear gloves to avoid grass cuts to the palms of your hand - very painful!

If you have read any of the other pages, you will have already found out that they have no insect or disease problems.

Requirements for Growing and Maintaining Stipa gigantea

Stipa gigantea - The Giant Golden Oat Grass

Stipa gigantea, commonly known as giant feather grass, is a visually striking ornamental grass that can add beauty and texture to any landscape. However, growing and maintaining this plant requires some specific care. To ensure optimal growth, Stipa gigantea requires full sun exposure and well-draining soil. Additionally, it is crucial to provide a consistent moisture level, especially during the first year of growth. It is recommended to prune the plant back to ground level each spring to encourage fuller growth. With proper care, Stipa gigantea can thrive in a variety of environments and create an eye-catching display with its tall, feathery plumes.

- Optimal Exposure to Sunlight and Shading

Finding the optimal exposure to sunlight and shading is crucial for the wellbeing of both humans and plants. While we need sunlight to produce Vitamin D and keep our circadian rhythm in check, prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can cause skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer. Similarly, plants need sunlight for photosynthesis, but excessive exposure can lead to leaf scorching and overheating. On the other hand, shading can help to protect against harmful UV rays and regulate temperature, but too much shade can inhibit growth and affect plant health. Therefore, it is important to strike a balance between optimal exposure to sunlight and shading to ensure the health and happiness of both humans and plants.

- Best Soil Type for Planting

The right soil type is essential for the success of any garden. When it comes to planting, there are a variety of soil types to choose from. However, experts agree that the best type of soil for most plants is loamy soil. It is a well-balanced soil that has the right amount of sand, silt, and clay to provide excellent drainage and retain moisture. It is rich in nutrients and has the perfect texture for roots to grow and spread effectively. Gardeners with heavy clay or sandy soil can amend the soil with organic matter to create a more optimal environment for their plants. It is important to choose the best soil type to give your plants the best possible start and ensure healthy growth.

- Watering and Irrigation Guidelines

Proper watering and irrigation are vital in maintaining the health and overall appearance of your plants and landscaping. While you may be tempted to water frequently, overwatering can actually lead to root rot and cause irreversible damage to your greenery. It's important to first consider your soil type and the water needs of your specific plants. Clay soils hold moisture longer than sandy soils, meaning that they require less frequent watering. Additionally, different types of plants have varying water requirements, with some preferring to be kept consistently moist while others can tolerate periods of drought. By following proper watering and irrigation guidelines, you can ensure that your landscaping not only looks great, but lasts for years to come.

Fertilizing Tips for Successful Growth

Maximizing plant growth is all about giving your plants the right nutrients. And that's where fertilizers come in. Fertilizing your plants is a crucial step in ensuring plant growth, as it provides essential minerals that plants need to thrive. And while it might seem like a simple task, there are a few key tips to keep in mind if you want to ensure successful growth. Firstly, it's important to choose the right fertilizer for your plants' needs. Secondly, make sure you're applying the fertilizer at the right time of year. Lastly, don't over-fertilize - this can actually harm your plants more than help them. By following these simple guidelines, you'll be well on your way to a thriving, vibrant garden.

Pruning Advice to Promote Healthy Growth

As a professional gardener, I've learned that pruning can be a powerful tool to promote healthy growth in your plants. By selectively cutting back branches and stems, you can direct the plant's energy towards its strongest and most vital parts. However, it's crucial to prune correctly and at the right time, as improper pruning can damage your plants. First, focus on removing any dead, diseased, or damaged areas. Next, think about what you want to achieve with your pruning. Do you want to encourage the plant to grow more flowers, or to grow taller? Finally, make sure to choose the right tools and techniques for your plant species. With careful consideration and proper technique, pruning can make a significant difference in the health and growth of your plants.

Pruning Stipa gigantea, also known as Giant Feather Grass, is essential for maintaining its health and appearance. The following is a complete guide on how to prune Stipa gigantea in the UK:

  1. 1. Timing
  2. The best time to prune Stipa gigantea is in late winter or early spring, before the new growth begins. This allows the plant to focus its energy on producing fresh foliage and flowers in the coming season.

  3. 2. Tools
  4. To prune Stipa gigantea, you will need a pair of sharp gardening shears or scissors, and gloves to protect your hands from the grass's sharp edges.

  5. 3. Inspect the Plant
  6. Before pruning, inspect the plant for dead, damaged, or diseased foliage. Look for brown, yellow, or wilted leaves and stalks that need to be removed.

  7. 4. Remove Dead Foliage
  8. Using your shears or scissors, carefully cut away any dead leaves at their base, close to the ground. Be cautious not to damage any new growth that may be emerging.

  9. 5. Trim Flower Stalks
  10. If the flower stalks have become unsightly or are damaged, trim them back to the base of the plant. If you prefer to leave some seed heads for their ornamental value or to provide food for birds, you can selectively remove only those that appear unattractive.

  11. 6. Shape the Plant
  12. After removing dead foliage and flower stalks, give the plant a uniform shape by trimming any remaining leaves that seem too long or out of place. Aim for a neat, rounded appearance that complements the natural form of Stipa gigantea.

  13. 7. Clean Up
  14. Once you've finished pruning, collect and dispose of all the cuttings to keep your garden tidy and prevent the spread of diseases or pests.

  15. 8. Care After Pruning
  16. Stipa gigantea doesn't require much care after pruning. However, if you notice any signs of stress or damage, provide the plant with some extra water and ensure it gets enough sunlight.

  17. 9. Monitor Growth
  18. Keep an eye on your Stipa gigantea as it grows throughout the season. If needed, you can perform additional light pruning to maintain its shape and remove any dead or damaged growth that may appear.

By following this guide, you can help ensure that your Stipa gigantea remains healthy and attractive throughout the year. Proper pruning not only enhances the plant's appearance but also encourages vigorous growth and abundant flowering.

Common Pests and Diseases to Monitor

As a responsible gardener, it is important to keep a watchful eye on any pests and diseases that may threaten your beloved plants. Some common pests to look out for are aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies, which can easily spread and cause significant damage. It is also crucial to keep an eye out for common diseases such as powdery mildew and black spot on leaves. Prevention is key in maintaining a healthy and thriving garden. Regularly inspecting your plants and investing in preventative measures such as companion planting, crop rotation, and proper irrigation can go a long way in avoiding a major infestation or outbreak. Don't let pests and diseases take over your beautiful garden - stay vigilant and take action at the first sign of trouble.

Stipa gigantea, or Giant Feather Grass, is generally a low-maintenance and hardy plant. However, it can still be affected by certain diseases and pests. Here's a list of some potential issues that might impact Stipa gigantea in the UK:

  1. 1. Rust Fungus
  2. Rust fungus is a common disease that affects various grass species. It appears as yellow, orange, or brown pustules on the leaves' surface, which release powdery spores when touched. This disease can cause the foliage to become discolored and weak, affecting the plant's overall appearance.

  3. 2. Leaf Spot
  4. Leaf spot is a fungal disease that causes small, dark-colored spots on the leaves. These spots can merge, leading to larger areas of dead tissue. While not usually fatal, leaf spot can weaken the plant and make it more susceptible to other diseases or pests.

  5. 3. Root Rot
  6. Root rot is a fungal disease that affects the plant's roots, especially when grown in poorly drained soil. Symptoms include yellowing leaves, wilting, and stunted growth. In severe cases, root rot can kill the plant.

  7. 4. Aphids
  8. Aphids are small insects that feed on plant sap, potentially causing distorted or yellowed foliage. They can also transmit plant viruses, further damaging the plant. While aphids can affect Stipa gigantea, they are usually not a significant problem for ornamental grasses.

  9. 5. Thrips
  10. Thrips are tiny insects that can damage grasses by feeding on their leaves, causing silvering or streaking. Although they may not pose a severe threat to Stipa gigantea, large infestations can weaken the plant and reduce its aesthetic appeal.

  11. 6. Spider Mites
  12. Spider mites are tiny arachnids that feed on plant sap, causing stippling or yellowing of the leaves. They can be a problem during hot, dry weather, but they are not typically a significant issue for Stipa gigantea.

To prevent and manage these diseases and pests, it's essential to practice good garden hygiene, such as removing dead foliage and debris, providing adequate air circulation, and avoiding overwatering. Additionally, regularly inspect your Stipa gigantea for any signs of pests or diseases, and take appropriate action if needed.

Benefits of Planting Stipa gigantea on Your Property

Stipa gigantea, also known as Giant Feather Grass, is a stunning ornamental grass that boasts an array of benefits for your property. Not only does its tall plumes of soft, feathery foliage add unique texture and interest to your landscape, but it also requires minimal maintenance. It is drought-resistant and thrives in well-drained soil, making it an excellent choice for those who want to conserve water and promote sustainable practices. Additionally, the grass's deep root system stabilises soil, preventing erosion in sloped areas. Perhaps most appealing to nature lovers and eco-conscious individuals is that Stipa gigantea provides a habitat for beneficial insects and birds, further enhancing the biodiversity and overall health of your property.

To conclude, Stipa gigantea can be an ideal choice for gardens and property owners wishing to add a unique and attractive native species of grass to their landscape. With the appropriate requirements in place for optimal exposure to sunlight and shade, planting in the correct soil type, providing sufficient irrigation, fertilizing on a regular basis, pruning appropriately when necessary as well as monitoring for pests and diseases, this beautiful specimen of upright clump-forming grass can bring great benefits to your property. Not only does Stipa gigantea have a moderate resistance to drought conditions but its golden color makes a stunning statement whether planted alone or amongst other companion plants. So if you're looking to jazz up your garden or grounds with the addition of this stunning native grass – look no further than Stipa gigantea!

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