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Little bluestem

Schizachyrium scoparium

Schizachyrium scoparium

Regular price $6.48 USD
Regular price Sale price $6.48 USD
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Size

Sun/shade: Full sun to part shade

Soil moisture: Dry to medium

Height: 1-4'

Spread: 0.5-2'

Flowering period:

Host plant for 7 caterpillar species

Forming shapely tussocks that display a series of subtle, attractive hues, little bluestem offers the perfect complement to the exuberant form and color of many native wildflowers. Sprouting in late spring and reaching a mature height of about 3’, little bluestem is bluish-green during the summer, takes on purplish highlights when in flower, and fades to a warm orange-tan in the fall and winter (6,8,61). Like all grasses, little bluestem is pollinated by wind rather than insects, but it still has much to offer in terms of wildlife value. The species’ dense, bunch-forming growth creates thatch-lined cavities near the ground surface that are the ideal shelter for overwintering and nesting native bees (76). Ground nesting birds also seek out little bluestem tussocks when selecting a nest site (77). Throughout the fall and winter months, the plant’s seed is a food source for small mammals as well as birds, including juncos, finches, and sparrows (77).

A native constituent of NE Ohio meadows and old fields, little bluestem grows best in soils of average to dry moisture and under full sun (8,61). Known for its excellent drought tolerance, little bluestem is also well adapted to growing under nutrient-poor conditions and will thus perform well in many situations where little else can grow (5,61). In spite of this versatility, little bluestem is not overly aggressive in wildflower-focused gardens and tends not to take over the space where it is planted, unlike some native grasses (11). With its handsome appearance, excellent wildlife value, and agreeable growing habits, little bluestem is a great choice for pollinator gardens and other home landscaping projects.

Photos by Drew Avery and Quinn Dombrowski.

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