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Sporobolus heterolepis (prairie dropseed)
Species Distribution Map: Click to enlarge
Map Color Key © 2013 BONAP

Sporobolus heterolepis

prairie dropseed

According to wild Niel Dibol, of Prairie Nursery, Westfield, WI, it is "often considered to be the most handsome of the prairie grasses. It makes a well defined and very distinctive border." Fine textured, deep green foliage with lovely, light and airy flowers to 2 1/2" in September and October. Flowers have a slight fragrance similar to coriander. Often has glowing pumpkin orange fall color. Good drought tolerance.

Sporobolus heterolepis - 50 per flat Availability
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2-3 Feet


2-3 Feet


12-18 Inches

Bloom Color


USDA Hardiness Zone 3-8

prairie dropseed Interesting Notes

Prairie dropseed is a long-lived, drought tolerant perennial that is ideal as a ground-cover or accent plant for hot and dry sites. The attractive mound of hair-like foliage is medium green, up to 3’ wide and 1½’ tall.  In late summer, numerous 2-3’ tall  spikes emerge from the clump and terminate in an airy, tan colored inflorescence. Plants should be sited in well-drained, rocky to gravelly, soil of low fertility in full sun. Take advantage of its fall color that ranges from yellow to golden orange and plant it with Schizachyrium scoparium, Liatris pilosaEuthamia carolinianaPycnanthemum tenuifolium, Chrysopsis mariana, and Asclepias tuberosa. - Mt. Cuba Center

Native grasses are the larval food plants of the Leonard's Skipper (Hesperia leonardus), both Andropogon gerardii and A.scoparius, with needlegrass (Stipa spp.) and dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) (Swengel, 1993) as well as Panicum virgatum, Eragrostis alba, and Agrostis spp. (Opler and Krizek, 1984). The larvae pupate in early August probably amid plant debris like other Hesperia species (Opler and Krizek, 1984; Schweitzer, 1985). Wisconsin DNR

"Our Showiest and Most Popular Prairie Grass for Gardens"
Prairie Dropseed produces a magnificent fountain of fine-textured, emerald green leaves, adding a touch of elegance to any planting. Considered by many to be the most handsome of the prairie grasses, it makes a well-defined and distinctive border when planted 18 to 24 inches apart. The seedhead has a faint but unmistakable fragrance, often described as resembling a combination of fresh popcorn and cilantro. Plains Indians ground the seed to make a tasty flour, and the highly nutritious seeds are much sought after by birds. -Prairie Nursery

Sporobolus heterolepis Growing and Maintenance Tips

Prefers dry, rocky conditions, but is tolerant of a wide range of soils, even heavy clays. Propagate by seed. Best used as an accent, groundcover or in rock, prairie and meadow gardens.

Key Characteristics & Attributes

Full Sun
Full Sun
Deer Resistant
Deer Resistant
Salt Tolerance
Salt Tolerance
Drought Tolerant
Drought Tolerant

Additional Information

Soil Moisture Needs
Plug Type
Horticultural Plug
Landscape Plug™
Season of Interest (Flowering)
Green Infrastructure
Green Roof
Lawn Alternative
Erosion Control
Native to North America
Propagation Type
Open pollinated
Grass Type
Warm Season