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Prairie Beardgrass Schizachyrium scoparium

Other Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Andropogon scoparius
Phonetic Spelling
ski-za-KRY-ee-um sko-PAIR-ee-um
Description

Little bluestem is native ornamental warm season grass in the Poaceae (grass) family with attractive blue-green foliage.   It is found naturally in a wide range of moist to dry habitats.

The leaves and stems frequently have a bluish cast in summer, while the fall color is a very warm copper that does not fade throughout winter.  The narrow erect clumps may grow to 2 to 4 feet tall with an equal spread. Purplish bronze seed heads and yellow-orange leaves make for great fall interest in the landscape. 

It performs best in average, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun.  However, it does tolerate a wide range of soil conditions including infertility and clay.  It has excellent drought resistance once established. It is well-adapted to southern climates as it tolerates high heat, humidity, and salt. It is resistant to browsing by deer and it is quite disease and pest resistant.  Cut back to the ground in late winter or early spring to promote new attractive growth.

Little blue stem is a larval host plant to various butterflies and moths as well as providing year-round cover for wildlife making it a great choice for a pollinator garden. The feathery fine blue green leaves are attractive planted en masse in a rain, cottage,,coastal, or low water use garden. They adapt well to container plantings or can be used in borders or meadows.  There are many cultivars available, which means it can be difficult to find the straight species in trade.

Seasons of Interest:

     Leaves: Summer/Fall/Winter; Bloom: Late Summer/Fall; Fruit/Seed/Nut: Fall/Winter

Insects, Diseases and Other Plant Problems:  No serious insect or disease problems. This plant suffers from too much mulch near the crown.

 

VIDEO: Part of the Native Plant Picks series from the North Carolina Sea Grant led Coastal Landscapes Initiative.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Courtyard Entrance Garden
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Blaze'
  • 'Blue Heaven'
  • 'Carousel'
  • 'Prairie Blues'
  • 'Standing Ovation'
    Wide blue leaves red tips. Fall color red/maroon.
  • 'The Blues'
  • 'Twilight Zone'
    Purplish leaves
'Blaze', 'Blue Heaven', 'Carousel', 'Prairie Blues', 'Standing Ovation', 'The Blues', 'Twilight Zone'
Tags:
#rain garden#heat tolerant#wildlife plant#cover plant#low maintenance#winter interest#fall interest#cottage garden#mass planting#air pollution tolerant#year-round interest#small mammals#disease resistant#ncemgva2018#food source wildlife#highly beneficial coastal plants#cpp#NC native#deer resistant#blue-green leaves#skipper butterflies#border planting#pollinator plant#native ornamental grass#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#humidity tolerant#urban conditions tolerant#rocky soils tolerant#clay soils tolerant#bird friendly#dry soils tolerant#food source hard mast fruit#mammals#butterfly friendly#Piedmont Mountains FACU#Coastal FACU#black walnut toxicity tolerant#meadows#common wood-nymph butterfly#various skipper butterflies#container plant#coastal plant#insect resistant#food source winter#crystal skipper butterfly
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Blaze'
  • 'Blue Heaven'
  • 'Carousel'
  • 'Prairie Blues'
  • 'Standing Ovation'
    Wide blue leaves red tips. Fall color red/maroon.
  • 'The Blues'
  • 'Twilight Zone'
    Purplish leaves
'Blaze', 'Blue Heaven', 'Carousel', 'Prairie Blues', 'Standing Ovation', 'The Blues', 'Twilight Zone'
Tags:
#rain garden#heat tolerant#wildlife plant#cover plant#low maintenance#winter interest#fall interest#cottage garden#mass planting#air pollution tolerant#year-round interest#small mammals#disease resistant#ncemgva2018#food source wildlife#highly beneficial coastal plants#cpp#NC native#deer resistant#blue-green leaves#skipper butterflies#border planting#pollinator plant#native ornamental grass#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#humidity tolerant#urban conditions tolerant#rocky soils tolerant#clay soils tolerant#bird friendly#dry soils tolerant#food source hard mast fruit#mammals#butterfly friendly#Piedmont Mountains FACU#Coastal FACU#black walnut toxicity tolerant#meadows#common wood-nymph butterfly#various skipper butterflies#container plant#coastal plant#insect resistant#food source winter#crystal skipper butterfly
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Schizachyrium
    Species:
    scoparium
    Family:
    Poaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern North America
    Wildlife Value:
    Provides excellent cover year round. This is a larval host plant that supports various skipper larvae and Common Wood-Nymph (Cercyonis pegala) which have one brood from late May to October. Adult Common Wood-Nymph butterflies feed on rotting fruit and flower nectar. Seeds are eaten by songbirds and small mammals.
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Deer resistance is high.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 2 ft. 0 in. - 4 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 6 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Ornamental Grasses and Sedges
    Perennial
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Clumping
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Fine
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    3 feet-6 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Purple/Lavender
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Description:
    Purple-bronze seed heads give excellent fall and winter interest. Fruits are available July-November.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Purple/Lavender
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Flower Description:
    Purple-bronze racemes form above the clump of leaves and appear in August. Blooms from June-October.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Blue
    Green
    Orange
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Orange
    Leaf Type:
    Sheath
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Other/more complex
    Leaf Shape:
    Filiform
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Flat linaer leaves 1/4" wide form attractive clumps of light blue at the base turn orange-yellow in fall and persist into winter giving intrest to the landscape.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Meadow
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Cottage Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rain Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Mass Planting
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Black Walnut
    Deer
    Diseases
    Drought
    Dry Soil
    Heat
    Humidity
    Insect Pests
    Pollution