How do we love Little Bluestem? Let us count the ways…
1. Ornamental is a pretty basic term for a plant that gives us 4 seasons of varied interest. Rounded clump of blue stems in the spring, tall stands of grass with fluffy seed heads in the summer turning to a gorgeous reddish tan color with fluffy white seed heads for the fall and winter.
2. Incredible Wildlife value…provides nesting material for birds and native bees, serves as a grazing cover for birds and small mammals, seeds provide food for late migrating and wintering birds and small mammals, highly deer resistant, larval host plant for a multitude of skippers and butterflies
3. Can handle a wide range of soils and water conditions. Ideally suited for dry, nutrient-deficient soils, Little Bluestem can handle sandy, loamy, clay, and everything in-between. It doesn’t love tons of water, but can handle the occasional deluge, so it can be a surprisingly good addition to a rain garden!
4. Little Bluestem has an incredibly deep root system, so while it isn’t something we would recommend over a septic field, it works very well to stabilize slopes, and to reach deep down into the earth to maintain the water and nutrient needs, which lends to the drought-tolerance. The clumps also have some horizontal root spread, which prevents erosion. Mild salt tolerance means Little Bluestem can be used roadside and in hell-strip plantings.
5. Mature clumps of Schizachyrium scoparium reseed and spread with ease, which has its pros and cons. If you have a larger area that you have recently cleared of invasives, this would be an excellent choice to plant. However, if you have a smaller garden, the prolific reseeding can require a bit of maintenance to keep the grasses where you want them. It is easy to remove some of the seed heads to reduce spread.
We could continue, but really, we named our nursery after this plant, so it might be gilding the lily if we go on. We love this plant, and we think you will too.
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Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)
SIZE: type: grass sun needs: full sun, part sun/part shade water needs: dry, average height: 3' plant spacing: 2' distance bloom time: July, August, September, October bloom color: green
good plant companions
Asters, liatris, purple lovegrass
moderate salt tolerance. Some salt exposure should not be fatal to the plant but some leaf burning may still occur. deer resistant (please note that does not mean deer proof)