Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - September 21, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Problems with Mexican feathergrass in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

All of my mexican feathergrass plants have died or gone dormant, laying down flat for the most part. Any idea what's going on with them?

ANSWER:

Without knowing exactly under what conditions your Nassella tenuissima (Mexican feathergrass) is growing, it's hard to say. Here is what our Native Plant Database page on this plant has to say:

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Dry
Soil Description: Well-drained, acid or calcareous sands, loams, or clays.
Conditions Comments: Requires good drainage and cant take excessive moisture. Should not be watered heavily more than once a week. Goes dormant during drought and in winter. May rot under heavy mulch. Grows well in containers."

You will note that it goes dormant during drought and in winter. Until it finally started raining last week, this summer has been very dry. How long have they been planted? If they are recently planted, perhaps they were planted when it was too hot, or do not have good drainage in their beds. If water stands for a while on the ground when you water, it is a sign that clay soil underneath is not draining well, and this plant cannot tolerate water standing on its roots. If the grasses are in a sprinkler system area, and getting more than the once a week watering, that could be a problem. It also doesn't like heavy mulch. We would suggest that you trim down the grasses to about 6", pretending that it is winter. This will take some stress off the plant, so it is not trying to get water up to higher portions of the plant. Then, only water them once a week, and not that if there has been regular rain. Let the water dribble into the plant area from a hose, and don't water them from an overhead sprinkler system if you can avoid it. Notice in the pictures below that the feathergrasses have various positions of "standing up," with some portions of the plant on the ground and/or turning brown.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Nassella tenuissima


Nassella tenuissima

 

 

 

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Assessment of Turffalo variety of buffalo grass (Bouteloua dachtyloides)
March 05, 2008 - Dear Mr.Smarty Plants, Now its March 2008, and your trial installation of Turfallo has had a year to prove itself; I'm interested to know your opinion of Turfallo Grass. There are such good e-c...
view the full question and answer

Limiting erosion around pond from Brooklyn Park MN
May 20, 2013 - Minnesota resident, wants to find plant limit erosion from pond?
view the full question and answer

Ornamental bunch grasses to grow under live oak
June 25, 2007 - I love live oak trees and have one in the back yard that is growing nicely. I don't know if it's the shade or the leaf and acorn droppings that won't allow the grass to grow underneath it. Around...
view the full question and answer

Wildflower meadow on former cattle pasture in North Carolina
May 17, 2005 - We have purchased approximately 7 acres of land in North Carolina. A neighbor has been using the land for grazing his cows, but I hope to plant it with wildflowers once we've built a small house. W...
view the full question and answer

Reducing Allergens in Yards and Gardens
January 31, 2012 - What are some allergen-free native plants to Central Texas that thrive in the soil and can survive in the weather?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.