Schizachyrium scoparium - Little Bluestem, Prairie Beard Grass

aka Andropogon scoparius

Many ornamental grasses make stunning displays when massed on a large scale. This is particularly true when using Little Bluestem. A mass planting will undulate in the breeze. A group is also excellent as a transition plant when one needs to move from a formal area to a natural field or meadow.

The fine foliage and distinctive upright flowers pass through an array of colour changes in the autumn after frost. Little Bluestem retires to shades of red or purple and remains showy into winter. Be sure to cut the dried flowers for a winter bouquet. Place the vase in front of a window so the delicate flowers will be backlit.

Description: warm season; clump forming
Foliage is grey-green; 7mm (1/4") wide; 100 cm (40") in height
Flowers late July to Sept; 100-120 cm (40-48') tall

Ideal conditions: full sun; well drained soil; excessive moisture and fertile soil will cause the tall flower stems to fall over

Coldest zone: 3 (find your zone; further info on plant hardiness)

Partner with: Scrophularia, Deschampsia 'Pixie Fountain', Panicum amarum 'Dewey Blue'

Season of interest: August to winter

Native to: prairies and open woods, dry fields and hills of North America

Drought tolerance rating: 2 (water to root depth once every 2 weeks); further info

Recommended spacing between plants: 45-90 cm (18-36") why such a difference?

When to divide: when it shows signs of life in the spring, continuing until the new growth is about 12" tall; only in the spring (further info on dividing grasses)

When to plant or transplant: plant bare root plants only in late spring to early summer, when the soil is warm, about the same time you plant your bean or corn seeds. The roots will grow only in warm soil. Planting too early in the spring may cause the roots to rot. Similar story in the fall when the roots may not grow enough to establish before the cold and wet of winter, resulting in the demise of the plant.

When to cut back: before the new growth starts to appear, but after the cold weather is over. Cut back to about 3-4" from the crown of the plant.

Pronounced: Schizachyrium (skits-ah-KEER-ee-um) scoparium (skoh-PAIR-ee-um)


Menu of ornamental grasses

Compare Schizachyrium scoparium to our other grasses in this handy chart.


Schizachyrium scoparium - Little Bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium - Little Bluestem

more pics in Grass Scapes Gallery

from the USDA website: states and provinces where
Schizachyrium scoparium is native