Anemanthele lessoniana: the Pheasant’s tail grass

Anemanthele lessoniana is a beautiful clump forming ornamental grass with a nice upright habit.

Its leaves are a mixture of green and bronze, turning red and orange in summer and autumn. It generally prefers full sun, but can take some shade, although, in my experience, the colouring is less fiery in shade.

Small feathery red sprays of flowers appear in summer, creating a hazy effect above the plant.

Native to New Zealand, where it is often found on coastal fringes, Anamanthele lessoniana is hardy down to -10 degrees Celsius (14 Fahrenheit) and is a versatile plant that can be grown in all sorts of climates.

I’ve grown it in full sun and shade, in heavy soil and in somewhat impoverished soil and it has done pretty well in all these conditions.

Anemanthele lessoniana: garden uses

Anemanthele lessoniana works well in many different settings, as a specimen plant, punctuating a border, or in block of several plants together. It provides fantastic year round interest and is easy to maintain – just comb out dead or damaged leaves in Spring. It goes well with contrasting foliage ground cover plants, like hardy geranium Johnson’s Blue.

Anemanthele lessoniana : design ideas

Here are some design ideas to consider when incorporating Anemanthele lessonianaa into your garden or landscape:

  • Use it as a border plant along walkways or garden beds. Its fine texture and soft, flowing foliage make it a great accent plant. I have several Anemanthele lessoniana punctuating the edge of a border in my garden.
  • Pair it with other grasses or ornamental plants for a naturalistic look. It looks particularly striking next to plants with bold or colorful foliage, such as heuchera or hosta.
  • Plant Anemanthele lessoniana in mass plantings for a dramatic effect. Its graceful, arching foliage will create a beautiful, billowing effect in the wind.
  • Use Anemanthele lessoniana as a focal point in a container garden. Its fine texture and movement make it an interesting specimen plant.

Anemanthele lessoniana : companion plants

Anemanthele lessoniana is a great companion plant for a variety of other ornamental plants. Here are some suggestions for plants that pair well with anemanthele lessoniana:

Plant NamePlant TypePlant Characteristics
HeucheraPerennialColorful foliage
HostaPerennialLarge, bold foliage
SedumPerennialDrought-tolerant, succulent foliage
EchinaceaPerennialBold, colorful flowers
SalviaPerennialColorful flowers, aromatic foliage

Anemanthele lessoniana also pairs well with other ornamental grasses, such as miscanthus or pennisetum. When selecting companion plants, Anemanthele lessoniana gives you lots of options because of its multiple colours and graceful form.

Growing Notes

It is best not to cut the plant back to ground level, although it can be cut back by about half to tidy it up. However, only prune in this way in Spring and Summer, when it will regrow quickly, not in Autumn or winter.

Anemanthele lessoniana can be a fairly short lived plant (3-5) years, but it can be propagated by division and it will self-seed, so self sown seedlings can be harvested for new plants.

If dividing the plant, do so in spring or summer so that the roots have enough time to recover and grown.

Light and Soil Requirements

Anemanthele lessoniana thrives in full sun to partial shade. It can tolerate a range of soil types, but prefers well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. It can also tolerate dry soil conditions once established.

Watering and Fertilisation Tips

Anemanthele lessoniana is drought-tolerant, but regular watering is necessary for optimum growth and appearance. Water the plant deeply once a week during the growing season, and reduce watering in the winter months. Avoid over-watering, as this can cause root rot.

Fertilise the plant with a slow-release fertilizer in the spring, and again in mid-summer. Avoid over-fertilizing, as this can lead to weak growth and susceptibility to pests and diseases.

Propagation Methods

Anemanthele lessoniana can be propagated through division or seed. Division is the easiest and most common method. Divide the plant in the spring or fall, and replant the divisions in well-draining soil.

Plant notes: Anemanthele lessoniana

Common name: Pheasant’s tail grass, Pheasant Grass, Gossamer Grass

Synonyms: Stipa Arundinacea, Oryzopsis lessoniana


The genus Anamanthele is in the Poaceae (grass) family.

Plant Type

Semi-evergreen perennial grass with a clump forming habit.

Soil Type

Prefers medium to light well-drained soil that is moderately fertile. Will tolerate heavier soils

read more on soil type here →


Performs at its best in full sun, but will grow in partial shade. Will tolerate exposed or windy sites.

Eventual Size

Height: 0.5 to 1m (1.5 to 3.3 feet)

Spread: 1 to 1.5 m. (3.3 to 5 feet)


Hardy to -10 degrees Celsius (14 Fahrenheit) at its limits. Comfortably hardy at -5 degrees C (23F).

read more on plant hardiness here →

Plant calendar: Anemanthele lessoniana

Sow seeds: Feb, March, April

Plant Out: April, May, June

Flowers: July, Aug, Sep.

anamanthele lessoniana
Young Anemanthele lessoniana awaiting planting out.
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