Growing as much as 8 feet tall, Big Bluestem is the King of the Tallgrass Prairie! Big bluestem once was the dominating grass of the Tallgrass Prairie that extended from Northern Ohio and Northern Indiana through Eastern Nebraska. Scattered remnants can be found today along railroad tracks and fencerows, as well as on prairie restoration plantings.
Big Bluestem has a nice deep green cast to it in the summer. A warm-season grass, it blooms in late summer to early fall. The seed heads resemble a turkey's foot (Another name for Big Bluestem is "Turkeyfoot"), and turn a nice bronze tone after the first frost. The stems are stout and strong, and last well into the winter.
Big bluestem is difficult to incorporate into smaller gardens due to its immense size, but it makes an excellent screen along fence rows and yard boundaries! For larger perennial borders, Big Bluestem could conceivably be used as a backdrop, but it does have a bit of a wild look to it.
Ecologically, Big Bluestem is an important food source for grasshoppers and the larvae of several butterflies. The seeds are also eaten by songbirds and small animals, and the leaves provide forage for bison and deer as well as cattle.
Big Bluestem does best planted in moist, rich soil. It does take a little longer than other grasses to establish, but a full-sized plant can be expected by the third growing season in the ground. With air-root pruned plugs like our SuperPlugs or RootMaker seedlings, Big Bluestem can be expected to establish much more quickly.
Big Bluestem is best managed by burning in late winter, but that isn't for everyone! Another simple tactic is to simply take a hedge trimmer to the grass, cutting through in multiple passes to reduce the size of the clippings. These clippings will decay nicely, adding vital organic matter to the soil.
|Common Name:||Big Bluestem|
|Botanical Name:||Andropogon gerardii|
|USDA Hardiness Zones:||4-9|
|Height:||5-8 Feet (Depending on Moisture)|
|Flower Color:||Green (Grass)|
|Bloom Time:||Late August - Early September|
|Light Exposure:||Full Sun, Prairies|
|Soil Moisture:||Moist to Average|
|Soil Texture:||Clay to Sandy Loam|
|Landscape Uses:||Accent Plant, Mass Planting, Restoration Plantings|
|Benefits:||Fall Color, Drought Resistant|
|Ecological Function:||Larval Food Source, Seed, Forage, Shelter|