Letterman’s Needlegrass Info: Learn How To Grow Letterman’s Needlegrass

letterman needlegrass
letterman needlegrass
(Image credit: Matt Lavin)

What is Letterman’s needlegrass? This attractive, perennial bunchgrass is native to the rocky ridges, dry slopes, grasslands, and meadows of the western United States. While it remains green for much of the year, Letterman’s needlegrass becomes more coarse and wiry (but still attractive) during the summer months. Loose, pale green seedheads appear from late summer to early autumn. Read on to learn about growing Letterman’s needlegrass.

Letterman’s Needlegrass Info

Letterman’s needlegrass (Stipa lettermanii) has a fibrous root system with long roots extending into soil to depth of 2 to 6 feet (0.5-2 m.) or more. The plant’s sturdy roots and its ability to tolerate nearly any soil make Letterman’s needlegrass an excellent choice for erosion control. This cool season grass is a valuable source of nutrition for wildlife and domestic livestock, but isn’t usually grazed later in the season when the grass becomes sharp-tipped and wiry. It also provides protective shelter for birds and small mammals.

How to Grow Letterman’s Needlegrass

In its natural environment, Letterman’s needlegrass grows in nearly any type of dry soil, including sand, clay, seriously eroded soil and, conversely, in very fertile soil. Choose a sunny spot for this hardy native plant. Letterman’s needlegrass is easy to propagate by dividing mature plants in spring. Otherwise, plant Letterman’s needlegrass seeds in bare, weed-free soil in early spring or fall. If you choose, you can start seeds indoors about eight weeks before the last frost in spring.

Letterman’s Needlegrass Care

Water Letterman’s needlegrass regularly until the roots are well established, but be careful not to overwater. Established needlegrass is relatively drought tolerant. Protect the grass from grazing as much as possible for the first two or three years. Mow the grass or cut it back in spring. Remove weeds from the area. Letterman’s needlegrass can’t always complete with invasive nonnative grass or aggressive broadleaf weeds. Also, keep in mind that Letterman’s needlegrass isn’t fire resistant should you live in a region prone to wildfires.

Mary H. Dyer

A Credentialed Garden Writer, Mary H. Dyer was with Gardening Know How in the very beginning, publishing articles as early as 2007.