What Is Big Bluestem Grass?

What Is Big Bluestem Grass?

Big Bluestem grass is a perennial that stands straight and tall. It's a North American native that can grow as tall as 10 feet. It changes colors throughout the year, with a blue-green color in the spring and a brown shade in the fall. The warm season is its growing season, and grass forms clumps.

Many people choose this ornamental grass because it sways in the breeze elegantly. It stands straight and tall and is the tallest prairie grass in North America. It is also deer resistant and can attract beneficial insects, and can be used to feed larger mammals like cattle.

How to Identify Big Bluestem

This grass can often be identified by its impressive height and the bluish-green color that it keeps during the warmer months. These plants have a central clump from which all of the stalks grow. The leaves are thin at up to 1 inch in width, but they are long, growing up to 18" long or even more. On the stalk's upper stems will grow this plant's flower. They grow on paired spikes on the three small stems from the top portion of the stalk. The little flower-covered spikes develop and bloom by the dozens. When they bloom, they are a stunning red-purple color that will eventually turn brown as the days get colder.

The spikes grow to about 2" to 4" long and have that purplish-red color, though they can sometimes be yellow. The flowers often have female and male parts, though they can also be male. It can also grow a few spikes that are sterile and have no flowers on them.

Growing Big Bluestem Grass

If you choose to grow this plant by seed, it will only reach a few feet in height during its first year. It will take until the second or third year of life to reach its expected 10' height. Growing these plants can also be done by splitting their rhizomes. The roots of giant bluestem grass are made up of rhizomes that run just a few inches deep. They also have some deep, fibrous roots that can go as far down as 10'. However, these are optional when you propagate this grass. Then, you can transplant those rhizomes elsewhere.

Care for the Big Bluestem

This plant will thrive in full sunlight, and it prefers soil that is a little moist. It is drought tolerant, but dry soil can also lead to it not growing as tall. It will grow in virtually any soil, whether thick clay or sandy soil. It does best in areas that have a temperature in the high 70s. It may grow more slowly if it is colder or warmer than this. If the soil is dry, water it twice a week to keep moisture in the soil.