PlantsBluestem Grasses→Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)

Common names:
Give a thumbs up Big Bluestem
Give a thumbs up Turkeyfoot
Give a thumbs up Big Blue Stem
Give a thumbs up Bluestem Grass
Give a thumbs up Turkey-Foot Grass

Botanical names:
Andropogon gerardii Accepted
Andropogon gerardii subsp. gerardii Synonym

General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit: Grass/Grass-like
Sun Requirements: Full Sun
Full Sun to Partial Shade
Water Preferences: Wet Mesic
Dry Mesic
Minimum cold hardiness: Zone 4a -34.4 °C (-30 °F) to -31.7 °C (-25 °F)
Plant Height: 3-8 feet
Plant Spread: 2-3 feet
Leaves: Good fall color
Unusual foliage color
Other: Aggressive when established
Fruit: Showy
Edible to birds
Flowers: Inconspicuous
Flower Color: Purple
Bloom Size: Under 1"
Flower Time: Summer
Late summer or early fall
Underground structures: Rhizome
Suitable Locations: Xeriscapic
Uses: Erosion control
Dried Flower
Will Naturalize
Good as a cover crop
Suitable for forage
Edible Parts: Fruit
Wildlife Attractant: Birds
Resistances: Deer Resistant
Humidity tolerant
Drought tolerant
Propagation: Seeds: Sow in situ
Can handle transplanting
Propagation: Other methods: Division
Pollinators: Wind
Containers: Suitable in 3 gallon or larger
Not suitable for containers
Miscellaneous: Tolerates poor soil


Little House on the Suburban PrairieLittle House on the Suburban Prairie
By SongofJoy on February 16, 2012

America has become a nation of suburbs and now exurbs. There's no getting around it. More Americans live there than anywhere else these days. But does that mean we all need to have a parcel of ground with a solitary shade tree in the front yard and a patch of lawn to manicure? I hope not.

(Full article27 comments)
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Posted by ILPARW (southeast Pennsylvania - Zone 6b) on Feb 9, 2018 8:56 PM

Big Bluestem was/is the most dominant tall grass of the Midwestern prairie in the northern US, and it is also native to native meadows in the Eastern states. I've seen large, wonderful prairie restorations in my native Illinois with lots of Big Bluestem with Indiangrass and Switchgrass also present, as at Fermilab National Laboratory in Batavia, IL and the Schulenberg Prairie on the west side of Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL, and there are quite a few more. There are some excellent native meadow restorations in southeast PA with Big Bluestem as the dominant plant, or sometimes with Indiangrass as the dominant instead. Almost any native plant nursery in the Midwest or East sells this species. A number of professional native plant landscape companies, such as Larry Weaner in Glenside, PA, use this species, as do a number of conservation organizations for native plant restorations. I bought three 'Niagara' Big Bluestem grasses in small pots sent by mail from Limerock Ornamental Grasses Inc., which used to exist in Port Matilda, PA, for my backyard natural garden, where they still are. 'Niagara' has a darker and deeper blue color than the mother species. There are a number of mail order native plant nurseries that sell the species or a few cultivars. This is a warm season grass and does not grow until May. It looks good in winter and then I cut it down in early spring. I like to set fire to the low crown a few inches high after I cut away most of the blades, as it likes a burn. Even though a wild plant will send roots very deep into the soil, this grass is easy to dig up and transplant or to divide later in spring.

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Posted by SongofJoy (Clarksville, TN - Zone 6b) on Jan 28, 2012 10:11 AM

Big Bluestem is a beauty from the prairies that once was the major component of our Midwestern landscape. It grows 3 to 8 feet tall and has deep green and blue leaves that turn partially fiery red with cold weather. Flowering begins in mid summer and is followed by narrow elongated seed heads resembling the feet of turkeys, hence its common name. Big Bluestem, like our other native grasses is tolerant of a wide range of soil and moisture conditions but does best in full sun and average soil. Useful for mass planting and back-lighting. (Sunlight Gardens)

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Posted by robertduval14 (Mason, New Hampshire - Zone 5b) on May 6, 2013 3:45 PM

The official state grass of Missouri.

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Posted by jmorth (central Illinois) on Dec 4, 2015 12:19 AM

State grass of Illinois.

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Discussion Threads about this plant
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
Very Appropriate / Sunlight Gardens by wcgypsy Jan 28, 2012 12:21 PM 1
Bee friends and other garden guests 2020 by gardenfish Aug 19, 2021 9:35 AM 2,807
Have to Trade... by wcgypsy Dec 8, 2015 9:55 PM 2
Unknown for 50 years or more by OldGardener Jul 29, 2014 9:24 PM 43
Good sources for perennials by SongofJoy Nov 17, 2013 7:31 PM 419

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