Giant Feather Grass, Stipa gigantea

Shimmering, statuesque Stipa gigantea (or Celtica gigantea, although few use this official name) is amongst the most impressive ornamental grasses to grow. Commonly known as giant feather grass or golden oats, it’s one one of the few grasses that gives year-round interest, with a basal clump of evergreen narrow leaves followed by a halo of flower spikes that emerge in early summer before the metallic inflorescences appear a few weeks later. Over the following months those tall flower heads become increasingly golden, swaying beautifully in the breeze to show-stopping effect as they catch the sun. And on most sites those stems will remain standing through winter, looking magical when frost covers the garden, too.

Here’s everything you need to know about growing this standout plant.

Photography by Clare Coulson.

Above: Stipa gigantea in a mixed border in midsummer. Plant it where it catches morning or evening light to make the most of its golden inflorescences.

Given the right conditions, Stipa gigantea requires almost no maintenance. It prefers a sunny open position in free-draining soil, so give it plenty of space. The basal foliage alone can sometimes cover a few square feet so don’t crowd it closely to other perennials or shrubs, and consider the height of the spikes as well as the overall height of the plant which can reach up to seven feet tall and as much across. Stipa ‘Goldilocks’ is a slightly more compact cultivar growing to five to six feet tall.

Above: It can work well contrasted with other grasses too. Here, the upright growth of Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ contrasts with the arching stems of Stipa gigantea just catching the light beyond.

Stipa gigantea makes a great feature plant either as a single specimen or dotted through a border. It is especially suited to gravel gardens on open ground where it can bask in hot conditions. If choosing partners, consider the flower stems which can easily tangle with tall perennials. It’s best underplanted with shorter perennials or grasses, clipped forms, or swathes of bulbs. Or euphorbias which can be deadheaded into neat mounds just as the Stipa begins to flower. In high summer it makes a fantastic backdrop to richly colored perennials, including shorter dahlias or summer bulbs.

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