Little Bluestem is an often over looked native yet very ornamental grass. This may be due to its intimidating Latin name but I suspect it’s because it is hard to document its charm in photographs…perhaps a video could capture its grace in motion. We’ve grown the selection Blue Heaven in our garden (see above) for a half dozen years, and it continues to impress us with its upright narrow foliage that transforms in color: almost powder blue in spring and summer, changing to plum wine tones in early fall, and becoming a stunning amber gold in early December. We’ve been impressed with how well it holds up to snow loads, springing upright as the white stuff melts away.
There are now a number of selected forms to choose from. ’Standing Ovation’ is a bit shorter (3-4) than ‘Blue Heaven’ (closer to 4). ‘Standing Ovation’ turns a very rich coppery red in the fall, later aging to a warm caramel color in winter. ’Carousel’ is more compact and wide growing, growing 3’ x 3’, and its light blue green foliage takes on pink to wine tones in mid summer, with a multicolor effect, of pink, wine, and mahogany tones in the fall. We are excited about offering two new forms in 2015: Schizachyrium ’Smoke Signal ‘ and ‘Twilight Zone’. ’Smoke Signal’, maturing at 3-4′, begins to turn red in late summer, but as the fall unfolds the color becomes a dark purple. ’Twilight Zone’ gets a bit taller at 48-54”, with a narrow upright form. It holds its silvery blue color longer, developing dark purple highlights in autumn. These new forms reportedly share the same non flopping characteristics as ‘Blue Heaven’ (aka ‘MinnBlue’).
Do you need more convincing to grow this grass? Here you go: Little Bluestem is drought tolerant once established, deer resistant, tolerant of windy sites, adapts to a wide range of soil types except very wet soils, and is exceptionally cold hardy , zones 3-9.
3 thoughts on “Schizachyrium scoparium”
I am so happy to see you highlight Little Bluestem. It is one of my favorite grasses for wildflower meadows because it doesn’t crowd out its neighbors like mat forming grasses would. It was also the favorite plant of the late Dr. William Niering who taught for many years at Connecticut College, and who was the Connecticut College Arboretum director as well.
I am interested in this grass. However, does it need full sun? Can you suggest native plants that will grow in shade? Love your website & visiting the gardens when I am in the area. Thank you.
Gladys, yes, Little Bluestem needs full sun or at least 6 hours of good sun. One of the best grasses for shade is Japanese Forest Grass, Hakonechloa macra. There are a number of forms, on gold variegated, one all gold and several named green forms that turn red in the fall, as well as white variegated. They are hardy through zone 5.