Tussock grass – info, planting, care and tips

Tussock grass (Deschampsia cespitosa)
Tussock grass (Deschampsia cespitosa) - by Christian Fischer

The tussock grass is a feathery ornamental grass, that forms dense clumps. This is how you plant and care for this grass species properly.

Profile of tussock grass:

Scientific name: Deschampsia cespitosa

Plant family: grasses (Poaceae), subfamily cool-season grasses (Pooideae)

Other names: tufted hairgrass

Sowing time: spring

Planting time: spring

Flowering period: June to August

Location: sunny to partially shady

Soil quality: sandy to loamy, lime sensitive, nutrient rich, humus rich

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: flower beds, flower bouquets, single position, group planting, rose companion, flower garden, natural garden, prairie garden, forest garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 5 (-26 °C / -15 °F)

Bee and insect friendly: No

Plant characteristics and classification of tussock grass

Plant order, origin and occurrence of tussock grass

The tussock grass (Deschampsia cespitosa), also called tufted hairgrass, is one of about 40 species of the genus tussock grass (Deschampsia) within the family of grasses (Poaceae). The grass is native to North America, Europe, East Asia and New Zealand, where it occurs naturally in humid locations and light forests. The ornamental grass can also be found in higher, cooler mountain locations. Occurring in the wild, the grass is also pejoratively called “cutting grass”, because the leaves are rough and are not eaten by cattle.

Characteristics of tussock grass


The tussock grass forms dense, evergreen as well as evenly hemispherical clumps without runners. It grows between 50 and – during the flowering period – 120 centimeters (20 and 48 in) high. The upright growing blades are smooth or rough at the top. When old, the plant forms large but compact tufts of grass.


The alternate and arching overhanging leaves are divided into leaf sheaths and leaf blades. The leaf sheaths of the tufted hairgrass are smooth to slightly rough. The leaf blades are dark green, about 4 millimeters (0.16 in) wide, rough at the edge and on the upper side.


The tussock grass flowers early. From June to August, dainty, 10 to 30 centimeters (4 to 12 in) long, broadly egg-shaped to elongated panicles appear, which are feathery, almost horizontally protruding and arranged lively. The two-flowered spikelets are about 5 millimeters (0.2 in) long and form a yellow-green, fine and transparent veil of flowers, which later appears yellowish to beige. Many cultivated varieties also bloom yellow-green from the beginning.

Tussock grass – cultivation and care


The grass thrives easily in a sunny to partially shady location, although the flowers are most abundant in sunny places.


The tufted hairgrass grows on humusy, nutrient-rich, fresh to moist soils.


It is best to plant the tussock grass in spring in a planting hole of a similar size to the pot and at a distance of 60 centimeters (24 in) from other plants. Water the ornamental grass well after planting.

Care / Watering / Fertilization

During longer periods of drought you should water the grass sufficiently. Otherwise, the tussock grass does not require any further care measures. Only in the spring can you cut back or thin out the clumps of grass to make room for new leaves to sprout.


You can rejuvenate the tussock grass by dividing the root ball in spring or autumn. Prick off a part of the tuft with a spade and replace it in another place in the garden.


Propagation by division is the simplest method. You can also propagate the grass by sowing.

Diseases and pests

There are no known diseases and pests.


The tussock grass is hardy down to -26 °C / -15 °F. If you do not cut the blades, they will serve as winter protection.

Use in the garden

The long-lived and clump-forming tussock grass is suitable densely planted as ground cover or lawn border, where it forms large clouds of flowers. Also at pond edges, the grass with the tender blooms is an eye-catcher. The plant is also a welcome planting partner of forest edge perennials such as bellflowers and cranesbill and is decorative near trees and shrubs, where the inflorescences stand in the sun and can stand out against a dark background. Even in winter, when the leaves are covered with hoarfrost or snow, the ornamental grass is very attractive.

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