Little Bluestem in the Landscape

Little bluestem

Schizachyrium scoparium

Description

Perennial, warm season bunchgrass; blue-green foliage turning bronze in the fall. Flowers in mid to late summer; heads are tufted racemes. Plants can reach heights of up to 4 feet. This plant can be found naturally in desert surroundings, along waterways, and in rock crevices. This is a long-living plant that can be used ornamentally as a specimen, in a rock garden, or anywhere soil stabilization is desired. In winter, the seeds are favored by small birds.

Cultural Requirements

  • Native Habitat: native all over the U.S. to prairies, dry hills, woodlands
  • Soil: well drained, low fertility, pH 5.0-8.4
  • Cold Tolerance: hardy to -38°F
  • Drought Tolerance: high
  • Salt Tolerance: not tolerant
  • Sun/Shade Preference: full sun
  • Transplanting: easy
  • Propagation: seed or division
  • Maintenance: crop to no less than 8 inches in early fall or late spring
  • Pest Problems: no serious pest problems

Landscape Value

  • Use in the Landscape: specimen, soil stabilization, wildlife protection and food source
  • Foliage: showy, attractive fall color
  • Inflorescence: fine-textured
  • Color: summer: early July - mid-september; fall and winter: mid-september on
  • Fruit (seedheads: feathery appearance when mature
  • Form: upright, tight, vertical lines
  • Texture: fine to medium
  • Ultimate Size: 3 to 4 feet
  • Rate of Growth: Moderate; full height in 2 years
  • Plant Community: parkland, pinyon-juniper, cool-desert shrub
  • Availability:Utah’s Choice” selection
  • Cultivars: ‘Blaze’: compact, intense pink-orange fall color; ‘The Blues’: intense blue leaf color

Additional Photos

References

  • Mee, W., J. Barnes, R. Kjelgren, R. Sutton, T. Cerny, and C. Johnson. 2003. Waterwise: Native Plants for Intermountain Landscapes. Utah State University Press, Logan, UT.
  • USDA Plants Database. 2007. URL: http://plants.usda.gov.

Authors

Heidi Kratsch, Extension Ornamental Horticulture Specialist
Graham Hunter, Research Associate, Center for Water Efficient Landscaping

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