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As usual, if there's a particular plant you'd like me to address, just drop me a line at shell@michellesgarden.com.

Big Bluestem
Andropogon gerardii

Big bluestem is a tall, warm-season grass that's a natural choice for prairie and meadow gardens.
It is also excellent alone as an accent plant or in groups as a screen.

Type of Plant

Warm-season, clumping perennial grass.

Best Climate and Site

Zones 4-9. Moist well-drained soil. Full sun.


Height of leaves to 2 feet (60 cm); clumps to 3 feet (90 cm) or more. Flowering stems grow 6-7 feet (1.8-2.1 m) tall or more.


This heat-loving grass has blue-toned, deciduous foliage. Purplish flower clusters in late summer are followed by unusual, three-branched seed heads that give the plant another of its common names, turkey foot. In fall, the foliage turns a bronze color that lasts into winter.

Growing Guidelines

Set plants 3 feet (90 cm) apart in spring. Established plants are drought-tolerant, but they'll be larger and more vigorous if you water them during dry spells. Cut back to 6 inches (15 cm) in early winter. Propagate by division in spring.

Landscape Uses

Grow big bluestem as a single specimen in a border or in groups in mass plantings. Groups are also useful as background screens and for preventing erosion on slopes. The flowers are attractive in dried arrangements.


'Champ' grows to 6 feet (1.8 m) and prefers light soil. 'Kaw' blooms late and is best for planting in the South. 'Pawnee' has a weeping habit and grows to 6 feet (1.8 m) tall.

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