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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Southern Region

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. 


 Read The Full Article from The Perennial Plant Association®



Prior Selections

Selections in color link to articles about the plant.


2021 Calamintha nepeta subs. Nepeta
2020 Aralia cordata 'Sun King
2019 Stachys ‘Hummelo’
2018 Allium ‘Millenium’
2017 Asclepias tuberosa
2016 Anemone xhybrida 'Honorine Jobert'
2015 Geranium xcantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’
2014 Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’
2013 Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’
2012 Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’
2011 Amsonia hubrichtii
2010 Baptisia australis
2009 Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’
2008 Geranium ‘Rozanne’
2007 Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’
2006 Dianthus gratianoplitanus ‘Fire Witch’
2005 Helleborus xhybridus
2004 Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’
2003 Leucanthemum ‘Becky’ ATL connected!
2002 Phlox ‘David’
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’
1995 Perovskia atriplicifolia
1994 Astilbe ‘Sprite’
1993 Veronica ‘Sunny Border Blue’
1992 Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’
1991 Heuchera micrantha ‘Palace Purple’
1990 Phlox stolonifera



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