General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit: Grass/Grass-like
Sun Requirements: Full Sun
Full Sun to Partial Shade
Water Preferences: Wet Mesic
Mesic
Dry Mesic
Dry
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
Butterflies
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

Image
Common names
  • Big Bluestem
  • Turkeyfoot
  • Big Blue Stem
  • Bluestem Grass
  • Turkey-Foot Grass
Botanical names
  • Accepted: Andropogon gerardii
  • Synonym: Andropogon gerardii subsp. gerardii

Photo Gallery
Location: Zilker Nature Preserve, Austin, Texas
Date: 2022-04-05
Location: Brownstown Pennsylvania
Date: 2017-08-12
Location: Newtown Square, Pennsylvania
Date: 2011-07-19
close-up of grass flowers and inflorescence
Location: Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor, MI
Date: 2010-08-30
Location: Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor, MI
Date: 2010-08-30
Location: Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor, MI
Date: 2010-08-30
Location: Brownstown Pennsylvania
Date: 2017-08-12
Location: Platte Valley in Nebraska
Date: 2013-08-09
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Date: 2013-08-13
planting island at harbor
Location: Newtown Square, Pennsylvania
Date: 2010-08-31
planting on long berm
Location: Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Date: 2010-01-12
light straw colored grass to left

Date: 2005-08-04
Steven J. Baskauf http://bioimages.vanderbilt.edu/

Date: 2005-08-04
Steven J. Baskauf http://bioimages.vanderbilt.edu/

Date: 2005-08-04
Steven J. Baskauf http://bioimages.vanderbilt.edu/

Photo Courtesy of Prairie Nursery. Used with Permission
  • Uploaded by Joy

Photo Courtesy of Prairie Nursery. Used with Permission
  • Uploaded by Joy
Location: Tennessee
courtesy Sunlight Gardens, www.sunlightgardens.com
Photo by robertduval14

Date: 2016-08-24
Photo courtesy of Santa Rosa Gardens. Used with permission.
Location: Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor, MI
Date: 2010-08-30
Location: Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor, MI
Date: 2010-08-30
Location: Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor, MI
Date: 2010-08-30
Location: central Illinois
Date: 2016-09-20
Location: central Illinois
Date: 2016-09-17
Location: central Illinois (Sangchris State Park)
Date: 2016-09-17

photo credit: Matt Lavin

Photo courtesy of: Tom Potterfield
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Date: 2013-08-13
downtown planting

Photo courtesy of: Tom Potterfield

Photo courtesy of: Tom Potterfield
Location: Newtown Square, Pennsylvania
Date: 2011-07-19
planting on a long berm
Location: Fermilab, Batavia, Illinois
Date: 2016-07-19
mostly Big Bluestem in scene
Location: Fermilab, Batavia, Illinois
Date: 2016-07-19
mostly Big Bluestem along path
This plant is tagged in:
Image

Comments:
  • Posted by ILPARW (southeast Pennsylvania - Zone 6b) on Feb 9, 2018 8:56 PM concerning plant:
    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.
  • Posted by SongofJoy (Clarksville, TN - Zone 6b) on Jan 28, 2012 10:11 AM concerning plant:
    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)
  • Posted by robertduval14 (Milford, New Hampshire - Zone 5b) on May 6, 2013 3:45 PM concerning plant:
    The official state grass of Missouri.
  • Posted by jmorth (central Illinois) on Dec 4, 2015 12:19 AM concerning plant:
    State grass of Illinois.
Discussion Threads about this plant
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
Very Appropriate / Sunlight Gardens by wcgypsy Jan 28, 2012 12:21 PM 1

« Add a new plant to the database

» Search the Bluestem Grasses Database: by characteristics or by cultivar name

« See the general plant entry for Bluestem Grasses (Andropogon)

« The Bluestem Grasses Database Front Page

« The Plants Database Front Page

Today's site banner is by JebobaTea and is called "Roses can be Orange, too"

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.