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Andropogon gerardii

Phonetic Spelling
an-dro-POH-gon jer-AR-dee-eye
Description

Big bluestem is a warm-season perennial bunch grass in the Poaceae (grass) family native to central and north America and is one of America's prairie grasses. With blue green stems and leaves it reaches up with a tall narrow shape growing 4 to 8 feet tall and just 2 to 3 feet wide.

Although this plant tolerates a wide range of soil types including poor soils, it prefers fertile, well-drained soil.  This long-lived easy to grow ornamental grass spreads by short rhizomes and occasionally by seed.  However, it may become floppy if grown in shade, and it is slow to become established. Cutting it back to the ground in the winter will help maintain its attractive appearance.  Once established its deep fibrous roots make it resistant drought. It also tolerates salt and browsing by deer.  

Ecologists have used this beautiful grass for prairie restorations, naturalizing an area for nesting birds and mammals, meadow gardens and for screening.  Plant this grass along borders, in a cottage garden or use it along a slope for erosion control.  Its attractive russet orange fall color make it an interesting accent in the landscape.  

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: No serious problems.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Blackhawks'
    Tall, narrow, dark purple leaves turn black
  • 'Red October'
    Leaves turn red in the fall
'Blackhawks', 'Red October'
Tags:
#full sun tolerant#drought tolerant#orange leaves#easy to grow#wildlife plant#red leaves#winter interest#fall interest#ornamental grass#blue leaves#copper leaves#blue-green leaves#warm-season grass#long lifespan#poor soils tolerant#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#Coastal FAC#Piedmont Mountains FAC#sandy soils tolerant#clay soils tolerant#bird friendly#food source hard mast fruit#mammals#butterfly friendly#pollinator garden#Audubon#common wood-nymph butterfly#various skipper butterflies
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Blackhawks'
    Tall, narrow, dark purple leaves turn black
  • 'Red October'
    Leaves turn red in the fall
'Blackhawks', 'Red October'
Tags:
#full sun tolerant#drought tolerant#orange leaves#easy to grow#wildlife plant#red leaves#winter interest#fall interest#ornamental grass#blue leaves#copper leaves#blue-green leaves#warm-season grass#long lifespan#poor soils tolerant#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#Coastal FAC#Piedmont Mountains FAC#sandy soils tolerant#clay soils tolerant#bird friendly#food source hard mast fruit#mammals#butterfly friendly#pollinator garden#Audubon#common wood-nymph butterfly#various skipper butterflies
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Andropogon
    Species:
    gerardii
    Family:
    Poaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    N. & Central America
    Wildlife Value:
    Members of the genus Andropogon supports Common Wood-Nymph (Cercyonis pegala) larvae which have one brood from late May to October. Adult Common Wood-Nymph butterflies feed on rotting fruit and flower nectar. This plant also supports various Skipper larvae. This plant is a larval host for butterflies.
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    drought tolerant, tolerates a wide range of soil (clay, sand)
    Edibility:
    non-edible
    Dimensions:
    Height: 4 ft. 0 in. - 8 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 2 ft. 0 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Ornamental Grasses and Sedges
    Habit/Form:
    Arching
    Clumping
    Erect
    Open
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Sand
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    Less than 12 inches
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Caryopsis
    Fruit Description:
    Fruit displays from August to November.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Blue
    Brown/Copper
    Red/Burgundy
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Winter
    Flower Description:
    The flower's inflorescence appears from July to October, opens red and darkens with age, not very showy, and is forked like a turkey's foot.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Blue
    Green
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    This plant has 3/8 in. green to blue-green leaves with parallel veins turns orange to copper-red in fall.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Meadow
    Walkways
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Mass Planting
    Screen/Privacy
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Black Walnut
    Deer
    Drought
    Erosion
    Pollution
    Salt