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Big Bluestem

Big Bluestem

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Andropogon gerardii

Andropogon gerardii, also known as big bluestem grass, is a tall, perennial, warm-season grass that is native to Texas. It used to be the dominant grass of the tallgrass prairie that once covered large parts of the Midwest. It is grown as an ornamental grass due to its attractive foliage, which changes color seasonally, its good architectural height, and its interesting flower/seed heads.

This grass features an upright clump of stems with flattened leaves. The leaves emerge gray to blue-green in spring, mature to green with red tinges in summer, and turn reddish bronze with lavender tones in autumn after frost. Flowering stems rise in late summer above the foliage, clump-bearing purplish 3-parted, finger-like flower clusters purportedly resembling turkey feet (hence the additional common name of turkey-foot grass for this species). The flowering stems bring the total height of this grass to 4-8' tall, typically at the taller end in moist soils and the shorter end in dry soils.

Big bluestem grass is easy to grow on average, in dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun. It is tolerant of a wide range of soils and growing conditions. It puts out lots of growth in moist, fertile soils but is less apt to topple in dryish, infertile soils. This grass develops an extensive root system and is somewhat slow to establish, but once established, it has excellent drought tolerance and is easy to maintain. Cut stems to the ground in late winter before new shoots appear. In optimum growing conditions, it freely self-seeds.

Height: 4’-6’
Spread: 2’-3’
Bloom: September-February
Light: Full sun
Water: Low, Medium
Zone: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Origin: Canada to Mexico
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