Big Bluestem Seeds 8000 (Andropogon gerardii)is referred to as the “King” of native grasses and both the most prevalent and widely distributed native grass as it is found in all types of prairie grass habitats. Big Bluestem is a perennial, warm season bunchgrass growing 1 to 2 m (3-6′) tall. It is found in a wide range of soil conditions from wet, to poorly drained to hot, dry and open sandy soil. In late August it produces interesting 3-branched flower heads, resembling turkey’s feet. Lush blue-green stems turn reddish-brown in fall. While Big Bluestem is a bunchgrass that grows thicker through side sprouting of the crown, it also produces rhizomes (which are modified stems that grow underground) that in turn produce new plants. Rhizomes tend to be 5-7.5 cm (2-3″) deep while the true roots of Big Bluestem can grow up to 3 m (10′) deep! Hardy to Zone 4.
How to Grow
550 seed/gram. Native grasses do best when planted in the fall, between Oct. 15th and Nov. 15th. A late fall sowing naturally stratifies any seed that may be dormant. An early spring sowing in April will work but often not as effectively. If ideal growing conditions are unavailable, the seed may go dormant and not germinate until the spring of the following year.
Many native plants will not bloom until the second year of growth when grown from seed. Avoid the use of supplemental fertilizer as this encourages weeds at the expense of the native plants. During the establishment year, native species plantings should be watered when dictated by the weather. The following year’s growth adapts easily to local climate and soil conditions needing only what nature provides. Mow to 20 cm (8″) height at least once through the first year of growth should aggressive weeds threaten to take over and again after the fall frosts have reduced annual foliage. Consider a controlled burn of prairie species where municipal laws permit. The encroachment of woody or non-prairie vegetation is curtailed by fire allowing the prairie community to thrive.