Eazy Gardening

Discover the Hardy Beauty of Red Tussock Grass: A Versatile Ornamental Plant

Chionochloa rubra, also known as Red Tussock Grass, is an incredible grass native to New Zealand and is often used for landscaping in gardens and public spaces. This beautiful ornamental plant is known for its striking red-brown color that adds a vibrant touch of color to any landscape design.

1) Overview of the Plant:

Red Tussock Grass is commonly referred to as Snow Grass or Red Tussock, and is a popular species of tussock grass that grows in the alpine regions of New Zealand. It is a hardy, perennial grass that can grow up to 2m tall, making it a great choice for adding texture and height to any landscape design.

Red Tussock Grass has slender, wiry leaves that are stiff, straight and erect, that can grow up to about 1m in length. Its beautiful, soft red-brown feathery seed heads that come up in the late summer and early fall, provide a stunning contrast against its green leaves.

The seeds are dispersed by the wind, providing a valuable food source for birds and small mammals. This grass is not only a striking visual element, but it also provides shelter for birds, and insects such as centipedes, spiders and beetles.

It is an excellent nesting ground for native birds like the Black Stilt and South Island Pied Oystercatchers. 2) Plant Cultivation and Care:

Red Tussock Grass has specific growing requirements that need to be met in order to thrive.

It is a hardy grass that can tolerate a wide range of conditions, but it does require plenty of sunlight, and well-drained soil. Here are some tips to help you cultivate and care for this beautiful grass:

Preferred Growing Conditions:

– Red Tussock Grass thrives in full sun, but it can tolerate some shade.

– The grass prefers moist soil but can tolerate some drought once established. – It enjoys well-drained soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH level (between 5.5 and 7).

– This grass can tolerate harsh conditions such as frost and snow, but it performs best in areas with temperatures ranging from 10C-21C. Potential Pest and Disease Issues:

– This grass is resilient, and not susceptible to many pests or diseases.

– The main issue that gardeners face with Red Tussock Grass is crown rot, which is a fungal infection caused by excessive moisture in the soil. – To avoid crown rot, ensure that you grow this grass in well-draining soil and avoid overwatering.

Planting and Maintenance Tips:

– Red Tussock Grass can be planted at any time of the year, but it is best planted in the early spring or early fall. – This grass can grow in large clumps, so you may need to divide it every few years to control its growth and improve its appearance.

– Once established, Red Tussock Grass needs minimal maintenance. Practicing occasional watering and fertilizer application can help keep this grass healthy and lush.

However, overwatering and excessive fertilization can lead to disease problems. Conclusion:

In conclusion, Red Tussock Grass is a lovely ornamental grass that is commonly found in New Zealand.

It is a hardy plant that can tolerate different growing conditions, providing an excellent option for landscaping. Red Tussock Grass’s unique appearance and ability to host wildlife make it an excellent choice for anyone looking to create a thriving and beautiful garden space.

With a few basic cultivation tips, and a bit of patience, you can enjoy the beauty of Red Tussock Grass in your garden or landscape design. 3) Plant Propagation Methods:

Red Tussock Grass can be propagated through both sexual and asexual reproduction methods.

Sexual Reproduction:

The most common way to propagate this plant is through seed propagation. The seed is dispersed by the wind, which explains its native range of distribution.

Seeds should be sown in the spring in a well-drained soil mix, and kept moist until germination. Germination can take between two to four weeks depending on the environmental conditions.

Seedlings can be transplanted once they have developed at least four leaves. Asexual Reproduction:

Red Tussock Grass can also be propagated via division.

It is best to divide the grass clumps in early spring or early autumn, when the grass is dormant or just starting to grow. Divide the clump into smaller pieces, making sure to keep some roots and foliage with each piece.

The smaller divisions can be replanted immediately, ensuring that the root system stays moist. 4) Plant Adaptations to Different Environments:

Red Tussock Grass is native to New Zealand’s alpine regions.

Hence, it has evolved to adapt to a range of environmental conditions. Root System:

One of the plant’s adaptations is its extensive root system.

The roots stretch deep into the ground to get moisture and nutrients, making it resilient to drought conditions. Drought Tolerance:

Red Tussock Grass is an extremely drought-tolerant plant, capable of thriving in arid and semi-arid environments.

It can even survive in regions with less than 300mm of rain per year. Temperature and Frost Tolerance:

The plant has also evolved to tolerate extreme temperatures.

It is known to withstand temperatures as low as -15C to -25C, which is crucial for its survival in high altitude areas. It can also tolerate heat, withstanding temperatures as high as 35C.

Wind Resistance:

One of the most important adaptations of Red Tussock Grass is its ability to resist high winds. This characteristic is due to the plant’s stiff, erect leaves that move in unison with the wind, instead of breaking off under its force.

Adaptation to Fire:

Red Tussock Grass has developed a unique adaptation to fire. After a fire, the plant can quickly re-establish itself.

The fire actually stimulates the tussocks to release their seeds, which then germinate in the newly cleared space. Overall, Red Tussock Grass has evolved to thrive under harsh alpine conditions, making it an excellent ornamental plant for a wide range of environments, including gardens, parks, and large landscaping projects.

Its adaptations to different environmental conditions make it a great choice for areas with high winds, drought, frost, and fire-prone environments. 5) Usage of the Plant in Indoor Settings:

Red Tussock Grass can be an attractive and interesting addition to indoor spaces such as offices, apartments, or homes.

While it is native to alpine regions, it can still thrive indoors with the proper care. Preferred Conditions for Indoor Growth:

Red Tussock Grass thrives best when grown in full sunlight, so it is essential to place it near a south or west-facing window where it can get direct sunlight.

It prefers well-draining soil, so make sure to use soil that can hold moisture, but also allows excess water to drain through. Watering and Fertilization:

Watering should be done with care, as overwatering can lead to root rot.

Water only when the soil is dry to the touch. Fertilize occasionally with a balanced, all-purpose liquid fertilizer to promote healthy growth.

Pest Control:

Indoor plants are susceptible to several pests that can affect their health and appearance. As Red Tussock Grass is resilient, the chance of pest infestation is low, but it is better to inspect your plant regularly.

If pests are observed, use an insecticidal soap to eliminate pests. 6) Usage of the Plant in Outdoor Settings:

Red Tussock Grass is an excellent plant for outdoor landscaping due to its vibrant color and texture, as well as its numerous environmental benefits.

Landscape Design:

Red Tussock Grass can be used as a specimen plant or as a mass planting to add texture and depth to landscaping designs. It combines well with other native plants and can be used to create a natural-looking garden.

Soil Requirements:

Red Tussock Grass can grow in a wide range of soil types, but it performs best in soil that is well-drained and slightly acidic. It is essential to prepare the planting area by removing any weeds, and adding organic matter to the soil.

Watering and Fertilization:

Red Tussock Grass is a relatively drought-tolerant plant, so it should be watered during dry periods to ensure it remains healthy. It is best to irrigate at the base of the plant, avoiding sprinkling water over the leaves, which may encourage disease.

Fertilization is optional, but if necessary, choose a low nitrogen fertilizer to improve blooming. Maintenance:

Red Tussock Grass is a low-maintenance plant but requires the occasional maintenance to keep it looking its best.

Divide the plants every few years to prevent overcrowding and encourage healthy growth. Regularly remove dead or yellow leaves and plants that have gone to seed to keep the plant tidy.


Red Tussock Grass is an excellent choice for indoor and outdoor landscaping due to its unique characteristics and resilience. Providing the appropriate care and attention, you can grow a striking and textured ornamental grass that adds a striking element of color to your spaces.

Through propagation and considering its adaptations to different environments, there are numerous ways you can incorporate Red Tussock Grass into your landscaping vision. 7) Toxicity of the Plant to Pets and Horses, Humans:

Red Tussock Grass is considered non-toxic to humans and other animals, making it ideal for use in gardens or other outdoor spaces where pets or young children may be present.

Toxicity to Pets and Livestock:

Red Tussock Grass is non-toxic to dogs, cats, and other household pets when ingested. Although it is considered a safe plant, it is best to keep an eye on your pets if they are known to chew on plants.

Horses can safely graze on this type of grass, and it is often used as a forage for horses and other livestock. Although the plant is not toxic, it is important to keep in mind that pesticides or herbicides, which have been applied to the grass, may be toxic to animals.

Avoid using pesticides in areas where animals graze. Toxicity to Humans:

Red Tussock Grass is also non-toxic to humans.

It is safe to touch and handle, and planting this grass in your garden or other outdoor living spaces will not cause harm to people. When planting any new plant or grass, it is important to wear gloves to avoid skin irritation or injury.

However, Red Tussock Grass has soft leaves that do not have any sharp edges or thorns, making it unlikely to cause any harm. Conclusion:

Red Tussock Grass is a safe and beautiful addition to any garden or outdoor space, as it is non-toxic to humans and pets alike.

Gardeners who have pets or young children can be assured that this plant does not pose any health risks. Moreover, it is an ideal plant to use in areas where livestock graze, given its use as forage in such settings.

In conclusion, Red Tussock Grass is a wonderful ornamental grass that adds diversity and character to outdoor and indoor spaces. This plant is hardy, adaptable to different environments, and non-toxic to humans and pets.

In this article, we covered various topics such as plant cultivation and care, propagation methods, adaptations, usage in indoor and outdoor settings, and toxicity to humans and pets, highlighting the significance of each topic in growing and maintaining Red Tussock Grass. For further clarification, here are some common FAQs:


Can Red Tussock Grass be grown indoors? Yes, Red Tussock Grass can grow indoors when given sufficient sunlight, well-draining soil, and occasional fertilization.

2. Does Red Tussock Grass require a lot of maintenance?

Red Tussock Grass is a low-maintenance plant that requires occasional dividing, deadheading, and removal of yellow leaves or plants that have gone to seed. 3.

Is Red Tussock Grass toxic to pets? No, Red Tussock Grass is non-toxic to pets, making it a safe option for gardens or outdoor spaces frequented by animals.

4. How can I propagate Red Tussock Grass?

Red Tussock Grass can be propagated through seed or division methods. 5.

Can Red Tussock Grass tolerate drought? Yes, Red Tussock Grass is drought-tolerant but should be watered occasionally during dry periods to ensure healthy growth.

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