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Native Plant of the Week: Little Bluestem

Family: Poaceae

Name: Schizachyrium scoparium

Bloom Time: September

Flower: Purplish bronze fading to a dried silver tuft

Soil Condition: Dry, Average, Adaptable

Light: Sun

Height: 2-4' tall by 24-36" wide

Native Range: Eastern North America including Long Island

Zone: 4 to 10

Perennial Plant of the Year, 2022! Schizachyrium scoparium is a beautiful, warm season bunchgrass with gray green foliage that turns a stunning copper orange color in the fall. The poorer the soil, the happier it will be. It despises wet soil and will rot if in those conditions. Little Bluestem provides import nesting material for our native bees.

Picture: Schizachyrium scoparium, early winter color (Tom Potterfield, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Noteworthy Cultivar:

'Standing Ovation': steel blue foliage with red tips, more upright than the straight species, great for a vertical accent in a planter, cultivar was discovered in Landenberg, PA

Picture: Schizachyrium s. 'Standing Ovation' (KMS)

Maintenance: If you must cut it back, do so in early spring after several days of consistent 55 degree days or lay the cut foliage on the ground. Self sows readily, so beware of this in small gardens. Do not mulch near the crown of the plant, as this will cause it to rot.

Benefits: Clay soil tolerant. Food and shelter for birds. Host plant to Dusted Skipper, Indian Skipper, Crossline Skipper, Cobweb Skipper and several others. Black Walnut (juglone) tolerant. Deer resistant.

Companion Plants: Eurybia spectabilis (Showy Aster), Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower), Eupatorium hyssopifolium (Hyssop-leafed Boneset), Callirhoe involucrata (Poppy Mallow), Monarda punctata (Spotted Horsemint), Solidago species (Goldenrod)



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