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Andropogon gerardii 'Blackhawks' (big bluestem)
Photo Courtesy of Brent Horvath ©2018 Intrinsic Plants

Andropogon gerardii 'Blackhawks' PPAF

big bluestem or turkeyfoot grass

A seedling of Andropogon gerardii 'Red October', this exciting new release from Intrinsic Perennial Gardens has dark green upright foliage that begins to turn red in the cool nights of August and becomes a ravishing nearly black color by September.

Andropogon ger. 'Blackhawks' PPAF - LP50 - 50 per flat Availability
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4-5 Feet


1-2 Feet


24 Inches

Bloom Color


USDA Hardiness Zone 3-9

big bluestem Interesting Notes

Andropogon gerardii ‘Blackhawks’, developed by Brenth Horvath of Intrinisic Perennial Gardens Inc., is a seedling of Andropogon gerardii with dark foliage and early color – turning purple-red as the nights begin to cool in August and developing into a near-black by mid September. In our trial gardens, ‘Blackhawks’ stands out from other Andropogon cultivars because of its darker foliage color, upright form topping at 4-5 feet tall, and noticeably early season coloring.

Andropogon gerardii, or big bluestem, is a tall, warm season bunch grass with handsome gray to blue-green stems in spring, turning to green alternating with deep red in summer, then to coppery red in fall. Three-fingered seed heads top tall stems in August. Once established, its fibrous root system can become quite extensive, contributing to its drought tolerance and erosion control value.

Big bluestem once dominated the tall-grass prairies of North America, from the Rocky Mountains to the east coast. According to the US Forest Service it often dominated 70 to 90% of vegetation throughout these prairies. It has been found in a variety of soil types and moisture levels throughout the US, but stand tallest in full sun and drier soils.

Andropogon gerardii is valuable to a range of insects, birds and mammals. Its foliage is important forage for voles, livestock and insects such as skippers, grasshoppers and katydids. Its seed is food for several Sparrow species. 

Andropogon gerardii 'Blackhawks' Growing and Maintenance Tips

Easily tolerates a range of soils from average, dry to medium, well-drained in full sun. Grows lush in fertile, moist soils like those found along a riverbed but beware! Overly-fertile soils leads to plant toppling over - best in lean soils to show its true stature and poise. Grass can be cut back in late winter and divided in early summer. 

Good Substitutions

big bluestem Andropogon gerardii

Key Characteristics & Attributes

Full Sun
Full Sun
Deer Resistant
Deer Resistant
Drought Tolerant
Drought Tolerant

Additional Information

Soil Moisture Needs
Green Infrastructure
Green Roof
Erosion Control
Wetland Indicator Status
Falcutative (FAC)
Plug Type
Landscape Plug™
Native to North America
Ornamental Foliage
Propagation Type
Tissue culture
Grass Type
Warm Season