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This tall prairie grass was once found throughout the Midwest and provided food for wildlife. Since it dominated the prairies, this grass also flooded the landscape with seasonal color changes. This native grass is often called the “King of the Prairie,” and it is usually found in fields, prairies, savannas, and glades.
This perennial grass can grow tall and produces some seasonal interest for your outdoor spaces. The Big bluestem lives up to its name as it can reach a height of 6 to 8 feet high. This bluestem has a very leafy base, and some of those leaves can develop on the stems. In the spring, the green stems begin to emerge out of the ground. These slender stems often produce hairy or fuzzy leaves. When the seed heads are formed, they spread out into three branches. Many people say these branches resembled a turkey foot.
By late summer, the grass has developed an upright form with bluish-green foliage and purplish flowers. This native grass does not disappoint in the fall. Your landscape comes alive with shades of orange and red. In the winter, the seed heads and leaves transform into an amber tone.
You don’t need a prairie to enjoy the beauty of the Big bluestem. This tall grass can thrive anywhere from a sunny garden to a native rock bed. If you have a wildlife garden, you definitely want to add this grass to your space. Along with the color, it can produce shelter and food for rabbits, birds, and other animals. With a mass planting, the richness of this plant stands out. Your open spaces are filled with color throughout the year as you cover up those bare areas. With its massive size and low maintenance, this bluestem is the ideal choice for any open space.
Since it is a native plant, many communities use the Big bluestem along roadsides and parkways. If you want to create a naturalized border for your property, this grass should be your top pick. It can quickly become an exceptional backdrop for those wildflower gardens. You should not think that the Big bluestem can only adapt to those rough and wild landscapes. It will make itself at home in a contemporary or cottage garden design. You will love the look of this tall grass. With its adaptability, there are a variety of spaces where you can place it in your yard.
The Big bluestem is a hardy plant, and it can tolerate almost any growing condition. This grass thrives in areas with moist to average soils. This bluestem can also handle places with dry and infertile soil conditions. As you can tell, this is a hardy native grass, and it can adapt to USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8. You have the option to plant this native grass anywhere in your landscape, but it will prosper in those areas with full sunshine. Once the plant has established, you can cut it down before the first shoots of the spring sprout from the ground. There are a few things that you should avoid to prevent weak stems. Excess shade, abundant water, and fertilizer applications can all harm this grass. Other than that, you do not need to fuss over the maintenance of this native grass.
This is the perfect grass for those who want a low-maintenance native species. You can plant it in your yard and wait for the bluish-green shoots to appear in the spring. Once summer arrives, your space comes alive with a greenish color. The Big bluestem puts on a fall finale with reddish-bronze tones after the first cold frost.
If you want this durable native grass for your landscape, make sure to reach out to Arbor Valley Nursery. We have a large selection of products to help you create your next landscaping design. Our team has the expertise to find the right tree, grass, flower, or shrub for your outdoor spaces. Please take a few minutes to fill out the contact form to learn more about the beautiful Big bluestem.
- Watering Needs: Water regularly – weekly, or more often in extreme heat.
- Botanical Pronunciation: an-dro-PO-gon jer-AR-dee-eye
- Plant type: Ornamental grass
- Deciduous/evergreen: Semi-evergreen
- Growth rate: Moderate
- Average landscape size: Moderate growing; reaches 6-8 ft. tall, 3 ft. wide.
- Special features: Deer resistant, Attracts birds and Butterflies.
- Dramatic Foliage: Color, Easy Care
- Foliage color: Green or blue-green. Russet in winter.
- Blooms: September to February
- Flower color: Purplish-red
- Garden style: Informal, cottage, prairie, meadow
- Design Ideas: Best massed in wildflower meadows, prairie, or naturalized areas. Also effective in border rears or native plant gardens as a screen or accent. An extensive root system makes this a good grass for erosion control.
- Companion Plants: Leadplant, little bluestem, smooth aster, coreopsis, shooting star, rattlesnake master, showy sunflower, rough blazingstar, compass plant, prairie dropseed.
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