SHOP PRODUCTS
Houzz Logo Print
hzdeleted_21882779

Bluestem, bluestem & bluestem

User
9 years ago



I ran across yet another new Scizachyrium scoparium variety out on the market last night that looks really nice, quite red in winter if the top photo above is on the level. Is there any other grass with so many variations being named? I guess switchgrass would be the other one but they don't come true from seed and are a result of crossbreeding I imagine. In my experience the named varieties of bluestem do come true so I wonder if these are local types being found and named or if its plant breeding?

This new one is called 'Smoke Signal'. The other recently named type out is called 'Standing Ovation' and its supposed to resist flopping in better soil with more moisture.

I collected some seeds from a local state government all Oklahoma natives garden of some unknown type which is very tall with deep gunmetal grey/blue leaves that are fairly tall compared to some other types, it comes up to my hips in full bloom. It has those taller stiff stems that I often see growing locally although some taller types around here are a greener form. The color & structure is fabulous on this blue type.

I have purchased a few named shorter varieties sold as nursery plants as well:

'Prairie Blues', 'The Blues' and 'Blue Heaven' The 'Blue Heaven' volunteers are almost turquoise but some are greener, the color in fall is deep red to purple and it has stiffer bloom stems that stay more upright, even in partial sun. Its not as 'fluffy' in winter as 'The Blues' but 'The Blues' will flop if too grown too wet or in too much shade but it is such a light blue its very pretty massed in.

The fact that these varieties are hitting the nursery trade is maybe a good thing as it opens up the possibilities of people planting more native grasses. The idea of paying $10 or more for bluestem is a bit difficult to me given that it grows everywhere around here but I do find the many variations interesting and one plant could yield seeds for more, anyway, so far that has proved the case.



Comments (15)

  • User
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I am having one heck of a time arranging pictures on this new improved GW. Its driving me bats. If you try to delete a photo that pops up at the top, the whole page goes green so I loose the whole thing if I try to take out just one picture to reposition it.

    ABOVE PHOTO: are three mature plants of Little Bluestem 'The Blues'. Its a very bushy type and tends to flop on me, not exactly lodging, its more like the weight of the stems is not able to keep itself erect. It doesn't form the classic '!' in the garden but still the color is great and so is the texture. These are in full sun growing in very sandy soil on the dry side.

    BELOW PHOTOS:

    Blue Heaven (Minn Blue) I purchased from Santa Roas Gardens at various times of the season. The greener one turning red shows a variation in seedlings. Not the nice turquoise blue like the volunteers seedlings of the first photo but definitely redder in fall as opposed to purple which I find interesting and could cull out and use in a grouping. The purple is quite striking on this grass.

    The 'Blue Heaven' plants pictured in the bottom shot get morning sun only are in decent average garden soil and still they stand tall.

    I am interested to hear anybody else's experience in Bluestem, preferences etc. I am going to be seeing how 'Prairie Blues' does this year as well as those tall ones I got locally at the state History Museum.

  • User
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Well another glitch in the new website. I edited my last post and my photos got whacked. Kaw kaw kaw.............

    Well, never mind... I came back to check and the photos again look whole and not whacked like when I first posted. I'll get used to all this new fandangle fanciness some day I guess.

  • Related Discussions

    Fall planting of Little Bluestem

    Q

    Comments (4)
    You want to keep it dry around the plants. Don't mulch up close. Its a very cold hardy grass and here in Oklahoma it does fine planted now because the weather stays warm until November. It won't grow roots at all over winter, not until it warms up good next spring. We don't have soil heaving here so I don't know about that. If thats your situation or if its real soggy there, you might be better off leaving them in pots over winter in a protected dry spot where the soil will stay damp but not soaked. Root rot would be my biggest concern. I dug some out one year and couldn't decide if I was going to keep them or not, I left them unplanted stacked in a big pot with some soil still clinging to the roots and they wintered over just fine. The bottom ones in no light were putting out yellow growth by the time I got to them the next year. Just a couple of the very top ones placed in the pot with the roots exposed to dry air died, they were all just tossed in the pot every which way.
    ...See More

    3 gallon little bluestem large enough to divide?

    Q

    Comments (1)
    A 3 gallon plant is a huge plant (or it should be!) and you should be able to get many small starts from it.
    ...See More

    Mixing with a little bluestem on a steep hill

    Q

    Comments (0)
    Last fall, I had about 100 little bluestem plugs (standing ovation) installed on a steep slope right behind my house (see photo). They’re just getting started, and they’re growing at very different rates, some with dozens of blades and about a foot tall, others barely hanging on. Since I may not get very uniform coverage or sizes anyway, I’m thinking of mixing in some other plants for a variety. Erosion control and drought tolerance are my main needs. It’s also a very steep hill (45°) above a retaining wall, and I won’t be climbing up there much to weed. Russian sage and dwarf crape myrtles are a couple of things I’m considering. Any suggestions about things that play well with LBS or particular combinations to avoid?
    ...See More

    Little Bluestem Grass?

    Q

    Comments (7)
    Yes, it's one of the few native, dry land Irises...like Prairie Iris (Nemastylis geminiflora)! Of course, these are much smaller than the far more common Eurasian Irises, so not as recognizable as Irises.
    ...See More
  • wantonamara Z8 CenTex
    9 years ago

    I have raked them into the wild on my land and still can't tell if any took. I can't tell the seedlings from all the other grass. I grew some from seed in pots and distributed them and I hope they made it through the winter. I did stake them but not all of them got water to help establish. We did have a wet winter but they do look dry. I am keeping my fingers crossed. My native bluestem prefers bit more dirt (other stuff mixed into the caliche road base) than the Blue Grama grass. They will also grow in part shade. All the grasses here do grow not as tall as your grasses. I guess that is why they call us a short grass prairie.

  • User
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Speaking of lodging grasses or how they perform, here is one I shot at Will Rogers Park. Notice how upright and nice are the Sideoats Grama and behind it the Lovegrass which was huge and glowing, the yellow flowers are lantana and some well established crepe myrtles form the backdrop. Then to the far left and planted in the front is a few pitiful looking Little Bluestem -- quite dismal and lodging very badly. I imagine this is good garden soil because the year before it was all planted in various perennials and hundreds of iris.

  • User
    9 years ago

    ..I just want to say that I love prairie plantings and we try to emulate it a little in some of our gardens here.... and I've grown Schizachyrium scoparium before, which unfortunately tends to flop here in our richer soils, however there is a variety I am waiting on, which hasn't been mentioned yet on this thread....maybe elsewhere... a variety called 'Prairie Munchkin'.... it's not yet available to us in Europe but it's more compact and doesn't flop.... I want this one very much....

    also Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition'... is another I'm waiting on...

    meanwhile, I have Stipa...Calamagrostis, Hakonechloa...Pennisetum, ....Deschampsia , Uncinia, Festuca's....and Miscanthus...although I realise these are not natives for you....

    ...lovely photos...always enjoy looking at these types of gardens...

  • wisconsitom
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Docmom, this won't address your question specifically, but I wanted to mention, in the shade of your oaks, there may be some sedge species/cultivars which would perform well and give you a grass-like look. I'm not going to get into which species, etc. since I don't know your whereabouts, but it might be something to investigate....if you haven't already.

    +oM

    Oh and a side note to Tex and Want: I addressed your thread above by talking about "the desert", not realizing, you guys may not exactly be in true desert. I don't even know, but wanted to clear up any misconception I may have fallen into.

  • wantonamara Z8 CenTex
    9 years ago

    I have bluestem that grows in an open shade of texas live oaks. It is not a dark shade, more a dappled shade. My Bluestem is the green Bluestem

  • User
    Original Author
    9 years ago

    docmom, the variations of bluestem seem to be based mainly on the aesthetics of bluer foliage and secondly fall color. There are so many variations in nature but I believe they are selected from local genotypes displaying desirable qualities. 'Standing Ovation' is touted to be more upright in less than favorable conditions (richer soil) but 'Blue Heaven' is one that doesn't lodge either. The stems seem to be a bit thicker and stronger. As far as their value to wildlife is concerned I don't think it would matter on the type. Wholesale seed is sold with indications that some strains do better in certain areas than others. The value lies in the fact that grasslands as a whole are the foundation for life, they bind the earth, prevent water & wind erosion, are the base of the land food chain feeding all wildlife (including us) and they are shrinking. Wes Jackson's remark "The plow is deadlier than sword" is a quote often used to describe the situation we have created. Size really matters, some animals will die out simply because they cannot cross roads cut through a prairie and they require a certain size habitat for the species to survive. Unlike trees, the roots replenish the underground aquifers so that is another important feature.

    wiscon, I am no where near living in a desert, this is oil, wheat and cattle country. Our annual rainfall averages about 36" per year. We experience floods, droughts, blizzards, tornadoes, ice and hail. The weather is a real roller coaster ride here on the plains, we even brag about it.

  • wantonamara Z8 CenTex
    9 years ago

    So "lodging" grass means grass that bends over? I have never heard that term. I have never seen any BLUE bluestem growing in my area. It starts , in the wild, to the northwest of us about an hours drive. I have always wondered about that. I have not seen any blue bluestem in gardens either. I am hoping that the seed that I get will grow blue bluestem from the seed. so far they are green. I am hoping they age blue once they grow in after this winter.

  • User
    Original Author
    9 years ago

    The seedlings of 'The Blues' are very light blue, exactly like the parent plants. I also ordered Bluestem seed from Plants of the Southwest that were a nice blue, not quite as faded blue-jeans that 'The Blues have but close. Around here in the wild, I see many shades varying from green to blue. Some are redder than others in fall & winter too. I thought that new type called 'Smoke Signal' was quite striking and the color is similar to those I collected seed from at the History Museum-- that same deep gunmetal blue/grey but the plants look shorter and the plants at the museum tend to lodge I noticed. I'm tempted to order one plant to get a start in the hope it would produce young-uns. One good thing about L.B.S. is you ALWAYS get children.

  • wisconsitom
    9 years ago

    Quite right Tex. I tried to pre-correct myself on that point.

    The only Schyzachyrium I get to work with is "local" genotype seed-grown stuff. We don't even use little bluestem very often in our prairie plantings, except where we're purposely going for a lower-growing effect for some reason. Otherwise, big blue is far and away the more common and widely-adapted species in this area. And that's also a bit of a stretch, given we're north and east of the main prairie areas in Wisconsin...er...pre-settlement Wisconsin.

    I'm more into other plant community types but nevertheless, what little prairie we do install is a boon to wildlife and nature generally, in that here as elsewhere, any prairie that did exist was an early victim of the plow. I have a stubborn streak in me that makes me want to question inauthentic "restoration" efforts, but through sheer osmosis I think, I'v e come around to really appreciating the prairie/meadow plant community. Good thing too because, although the stormwater engineers I work with are good people and unusually willing to accept my input, the prairie plantings around our stormwater ponds are basically here to stay. I incorporate pockets of other more authentic (for this area) plant communities in around the edges, which I find gratifying.

    +oM

  • User
    Original Author
    9 years ago

    Wisconitom, my appreciation for the prairie is actually a relatively recent one which has occurred in the last 10 years. Since I changed directions here on my small piece of property I've picked up certain bits of information and have become increasingly interested, aware and finally alarmed by the takeover of the prairies in my area by trees. It starts with small cedars invading a field due to fire suppression and many other factors and sooner than you would ever think possible, another grassland is a mixed forest of volunteer hardwood and evergreen trees, it happens right before your eyes, you can literally see the process. I admire people like you who actually work on a larger scale, I'm just a 'gardener' basically with an increasing appreciation for what I once didn't look twice at or think about, what's called "a whole lot a nuthin out there...."

  • laceyvail 6A, WV
    9 years ago

    Well, I'm stopping at this forum because of Texas ranger; I can't believe I've never been here before. I've grown S. 'The Blues' for a number of years. In my lean, sandy soil it never flops and I'm quite fond of it. I'm tempted by two of the new varieties, but have already spent two much on other things.

  • User
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    laceyvail, I moved 'The Blues' bluestem plants I purchased originally from Santa Rosa Gardens, they were planted in the lowest spot up front on the edge of the berm so of course water seeped downhill after rains. Its sand and they leaned badly. Last year I dug the 3 huge plants up, they came up easily since it was such deep sand -- clean white roots all intact that only took a shake to clean, thats how sandy it is. The 3 plants were so large and beefy the year before they didn't even resemble bluestem and each had so many loaded fluffy blooming stems by late summer that the weight was too much for the stems, they leaned over since they were growing in a spot that sloped a bit downhill anyway. Out back in soil that bakes hard in summer 'The Blues' are more well behaved and look like bluestem.

    I replanted the front spot with last years 'Blue Heaven' seedlings because they have stems that are easily two times thicker and turn such a nice purple in fall. Time will tell how they do there but since they don't lodge in too much shade so maybe they will stay upright there too. The color is definitely better in a full day of sun, some are almost turquoise, the leaves are quite a bit shorter than 'The Blues'.

    Speaking of spending, I am very tempted to get a start of that new variation they named 'Smoke Signal'. I wish they sold it at High Country Gardens because I definitely want to order a Sand Sage and it would save shipping costs, I hate ordering from different places and paying shipping at each, seems to always work out that way.

Sponsored
Grow Landscapes
Average rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars8 Reviews
Planning Your Outdoor Space in Loundon County?