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Little Bluestem and cultivars

2022 PPA Perennial of the Year

Full Sun Perennial

Schizachryium scoparium is one of the most widely distributed grasses in the US. It can tolerate moist conditions better than some other native grasses but may become floppy with too much water and fertilizer. A beautiful blue-green color all summer, it turns various shades of brown, copper and red after the first hard frost and remains all winter. It will reseed, so be aware of and remove unwanted seedlings.

Little Bluestem is an excellent host for several skippers including the Dusted Skipper, Cobweb Skipper, Ottoe Skipper, Indian Skipper, Swarthy Skipper and Crossline Skipper. Grasshoppers, Prairie Walking sticks, leaf-mining beetles, thrips, spittlebugs and leafhoppers all feed on Little Bluestem and the seeds are eaten by birds.

Cut Bluestem down in spring as it provides overwintering for many insects and birds. And bumble bee queens often nest at the base of Little Bluestem and other bunchgrasses as they are protected until they emerge in spring.

There are many beautiful selections of Little Bluestem. Including:

  • Blue Heaven: PP17310 blue-green foliage turning burgundy in summer and fading to red in the fall.
  • Carousel: PP20948 a compact variety with a sturdy, open upright habit that remains upright over the winter. Purple bronze blushed, blue-green foliage, turns copper, pink and tan in fall
  • Chameleon: PP31339 multicolored, showy foliage changes during the season like a Chameleon! Compact and sturdy habit, with green and white variegated foliage in spring and early summer, changing to pink and purple in late summer and autumn.
  • Smoke Signal: PP27433 has a strictly upright form that it carries into the fall and beyond. Deep gray-blue foliage with scarlet red tones begins in summer turning deeper red purple through fall.
  • Standing Ovation: PP25202 a super sturdy variety with beautiful blue foliage sporting hints of greens, purples, and pinks, turning brilliant fiery colors in fall.
  • The Blues: Bluer than the species, turning purple to coral-orange in the fall.
  •  Twilight Zone: PP27432 has a very different look that other Bluestems. Stunning silvery, mauve purple foliage in midsummer is followed by brighter purple in fall.

Image courtesy of Walters Gardens