Prairie grasses with a personality
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 30, 2013
- When looking for an ornamental grass to either add to your perennial plant
collection or to get your collection started, there are a number of fine grasses
to choose from, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture
color, and texture often play into the decision," said Greg Stack.
"Another factor that is becoming important to many gardeners is the desire to
include natives into their perennial border. One such example is big bluestem,
a grass that has been found as a major component in nearly all of the tall
grass prairies in the United States."
has been available to home gardeners for many years. This warm season,
(emerging late in the spring), tall, (often 5 to 8 feet), clump-forming grass
is a great addition to the perennial garden, Stack said.
In the fall,
this grass takes on a yellowish orange look with the seed heads having a
slightly purple hue. The seed heads have three branches and as a result, have
been given the common name of "turkey foot" for their resemblance to the feet
of this bird. "All in all, it's a very dramatic-looking grass," he added.
explained that plant breeders have been working to give the gardener some
choices beyond the standard species of bluestem, and they have come up with two
new big bluestem cultivars that offer a whole different look, he said.
The first is
a cultivar called 'Rain Dance'. This bluestem grows up to 6 feet tall and forms
a nice, loose open clump. The summer foliage is a deeper green than the species
bluestem, and the leaves are tipped with a red coloration. "In the fall, look
for the plant to turn a dark maroon. It also produces red flowers on red stems.
This creates a very dramatic look that signals fall in a big way," Stack said.
The other new
bluestem is called 'Red October'. This bluestem grows 5 to 6 feet tall and has
deep green summer foliage. In the late summer, the foliage turns purple and
then a very vivid scarlet in autumn, giving the garden some spectacular
these grasses are winter hardy to zone 3 and once established are very drought
tolerant," he said. "Because of their size, they make good background plants or
even specimen plants in mixed borders. They tend to be clump formers, which
makes them good to use with other plants without the fear of them taking over
or becoming invasive."
prefers a full-sun location, and if planted in a moist location, will be
considerably taller than if it is planted in a dry spot.
"If you're in
the market for a native prairie grass that is distinctively different from what
the early settlers saw in the Great Plains, try one of these new
introductions," Stack recommended.
Source: Greg Stack, Extension Horticulturist, firstname.lastname@example.org