Plant profile: Prairie dropseed

  • Updated: February 1, 2005 - 10:00 PM

Prairie dropseed (sporobolus heterolepis)

Photo: Jane Friedmann, Star Tribune

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Prairie dropseed Sporobolus heterolepis

Tough yet delicately beautiful, prairie dropseed is a choice ornamental grass with multiseason appeal. This fine-textured, clump-forming native grass forms a fountainlike mound. Its narrow, arching leaves are bright green through summer, then turn subtle shades of yellow and orange in fall.

In addition to its graceful foliage, prairie dropseed sports attractive, fragrant blooms in late summer. The slender, upright flower stalks are topped with airy, pinkish flower panicles. Tiny seeds develop after the long-lasting panicles have faded.

Native to prairies from central Canada to Texas, prairie dropseed is winter hardy through USDA zone 3. This sun-lover prefers evenly moist soil, but has good drought tolerance once established. Cut back old foliage in early spring before new foliage emerges.

Prairie dropseed's graceful foliage, tidy growth habit and long-lasting flower panicles make it a great choice for edging walkways or garden beds. Singly or in small groups, it's a wonderful addition to perennial beds and mixed plantings, especially when combined with butterfly weed, coreopsis, asters, coneflowers, and liatris.

Plant type: perennial ornamental grass

Season: attractive all year

Site: full sun, well-drained soil

Height: 18 to 24 inches

Available as: Container-grown plants are available at garden centers and nurseries. Seeds are available from nursery catalogs that specialize in prairie plants.

Fun fact: The seeds of this grass are a favorite of birds and are an important food source for them in fall and winter.

Nancy Rose, Contributing Writer

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