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Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)
Species Distribution Map: Click to enlarge
Map Color Key © 2013 BONAP

Schizachyrium scoparium

little bluestem

An upright and clump forming native grass with spiky blades of blue or green. Wispy silvery flowers occur in late summer, followed by a spectacular display of fall color changing from green and orange to deep burgundy. Remains attractive as an architectural feature through winter.

SIZE
Schizachyrium scoparium LP50 - 50 per flat Availability
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Height

3-4 Feet

Spread

2-3 Feet

Spacing

12 Inches

Bloom Color

Green

USDA Hardiness Zone 3-8

little bluestem Interesting Notes

Schizachyrium scoparium is upright and clump forming native grass with spiky blades of blue or green. The wispy silvery flowers occur in late summer, followed by a spectacular display of fall color changing from green and orange to deep burgundy. A truly durable grass, it tolerates drought and heat with ease and thrives in lean soils. Little bluestem is one of the four dominant warm-season grasses found in the North American prairies and transitions easily between restoration settings to more formal situations with foliage remaining attractive as an architectural feature through winter.

Schizachyrium scoparium can be found in dry fields, prairies and woods from Maine to Alberta and Idaho, south to Florida and Arizona. Known for its low-maintenance, little bluestem does best in full sun and lean soils, anything from clay loam to sandy soils. It can self-seed but not prolifically. To maintain the best appearance, cut back to the ground in late winter or early spring before new growth emerges.

Native warm-season grasses such as little bluestem are essential larval plant food for several species of skippers as well as prairie walkingsticks, leafhoppers, and grasshoppers. The habitat provided by having such a rich diversity of insect life supports birds and other larger invertebrates. Bison, cattle, and other even-toed ungulates consume the foliage. S. scoparium can be used in restoration projects, prairies, borders, cottage gardens, and looks best in a group or mass. 

Schizachyrium scoparium Growing and Maintenance Tips

Tolerant of a wide range of soils, but will not grow well in moist, fertile soils. Propagate by seed or division in spring. Self seeds, though not prolifically. Cut to the ground in spring before new growth emerges. Best utilized as a vertical accent in perennial borders or as a screen.

Good Substitutions

little bluestem Schizachyrium scoparium 'Standing Ovation'

Key Characteristics & Attributes

Full Sun
Full Sun
Songbird-friendly
Songbird-friendly
Deer Resistant
Deer Resistant
Cut Flower
Cut Flower
Salt Tolerance
Salt Tolerance
Drought Tolerant
Drought Tolerant
Summer
Summer

Additional Information

Soil Moisture Needs
Dry
Average
Green Infrastructure
Lawn Alternative
Erosion Control
Meadow/Prairie
Green Roof
Wetland Indicator Status
Falcutative Upland (FACU)
Plug Type
Landscape Plug™
Attributes
Native to North America
Clay Tolerance
Season of Interest (Flowering)
Late Summer
Propagation Type
Open pollinated
Grass Type
Warm Season