ANNOUNCING THE 2022
PERENNIAL PLANT OF THE YEAR®:
Schizachyrium scoparium and cultivars
Photography Credit: Hoffman Nursery
Summer through fall, the slender leaves and stems of little bluestem are an ever-changing kaleidoscope of gray-green, blue, pink, purple, copper, mahogany, red, and orange tones. Wispy silver-white seed heads sparkle in autumn sunlight and coppery brown leaves persist through winter.
Little bluestem is a tough and dependable clumping grass that blends well with perennials such as asters, sedums, coneflowers, and other grasses. Native grasses play their part in the pollinator story too. Little bluestem is a larval host for a variety of butterflies and moths such as crossline skipper, Dakota skipper, and Ottoe skipper.
Native to a broad swath of North America, it was one of the dominant grasses of the vast tallgrass prairies. In average to lean, well-drained soils, stems will remain upright but can flop easily if conditions are too rich or moist. Cultivars have been selected for shorter plants, enhanced leaf colors, and stronger stems.
Little bluestem’s spikiness complements native and non-native perennials alike. An easy fit for mass plantings or meadows, it is just as brilliant in traditional borders, gravel gardens, and green roofs. Perfect partners are recent PPOYs such as Calamintha nepeta ssp. nepeta, Asclepias tuberosa, Stachys ‘Hummelo’, and Allium ‘Millenium’.
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Shannon Currey selected Schizachyrium scoparium 'The Blues' (top photo) and Schizachyrium scoparium 'Standing Ovation' PP25202 (bottom photo) for the Southern Region.
"In the Southern Region, our humidity, high nighttime temps, and wet springs can slow down some Little Bluestem. My picks for us are ‘The Blues’ and ‘Standing Ovation’ PP25202. ‘The Blues’ is a strong, vigorous grower and has fantastic color. Blues, pinks, purples in the summer followed by reds and oranges in the fall. In the right conditions, it stands out for us. The downside is that it can flop if it doesn’t get full sun or is placed in fertile soils or irrigated sites. That’s why I’d add ‘Standing Ovation’ to the mix. It’s a good grower for us and produces beautiful colors. It doesn’t flop when placed in fertile or irrigated sites, which is a big plus for those wanting a tidier look."
Text reprinted from The Perennial Plant Association® with permission.
Selections in color link to articles about the plant.
|2021||Calamintha nepeta subs. Nepeta
|2020||Aralia cordata 'Sun King|
|2016||Anemone xhybrida 'Honorine Jobert'|
|2015||Geranium xcantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’|
|2014||Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’|
|2013||Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’|
|2012||Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’|
|2009||Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’|
|2007||Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’|
|2006||Dianthus gratianoplitanus ‘Fire Witch’|
|2004||Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’|
|2003||Leucanthemum ‘Becky’ ATL connected!|
|2001||Calamagrostis xsuperbum acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’|
|2000||Scabiosa columbaria ‘Butterfly Blue’|
|1999||Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’|
|1998||Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’|
|1997||Salvia ‘May Night’ (‘Mainacht’)|
|1996||Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’|
|1993||Veronica ‘Sunny Border Blue’|
|1992||Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’|
|1991||Heuchera micrantha ‘Palace Purple’|
What's your experience with any of the above plants in our area? Post in Comments below. Have a lot to say about any, maybe you'd write an article for us? Contact Us