Tennessee Smart Yards Native Plants

A comprehensive database of Tennessee native plants

Big Bluestem, Turkey-foot

Big Bluestem, Turkey-foot

Andropogon gerardii

Full sun, moderately wet to dry moisture level, tolerant of a wide range of soils, slightly acid to slightly alkaline pH.  4-8 feet height, blooms in summer, purple but not showy flowers, freely self-seeds under preferred growing conditions.

Germination Code:  A

Native Region:  Statewide

Warm-season, low-maintenance grass that is easy to grow.  Develops an extensive root system so is somewhat slow to establish.  Good architectural plant that turns a light reddish to purple brown in autumn.  Good for erosion control and takes heat and drought well. It has the potential to be weedy.  Does not hold an attractive shape in winter when it dries out.  Attracts birds.


One response to “Big Bluestem, Turkey-foot

  1. joystewart March 28, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    In one area of my yard, I converted lawn to a native plant meadow that is about 40 feet by 30 feet. I added Big Bluestem to my seed mix at the last minute after chatting with my seed supplier by phone. In the subsequent 4 years, I have had nothing but problems with it taking over and crowding out the flowers. I called my seed supplier and complained but they said they had never heard of such a thing. Yesterday I found an article by Neil Diboll, who is a recognized expert on native plants and head of Prairie Nursery in Westfield, Wisconsin. In his article, “Designing Natural Landscapes with Native Prairie Plants,” he says “Be careful when planting species that tend to seed aggressively, as they may take over sections of the garden. This includes the prairie grasses Big Bluestem, Switchgrass, and Indiangrass.” He also adds, “Beware of planting the taller prairie grasses with shorter species, as they can spread aggressively by seed and take over the garden. Sod-forming tall grasses such as Big Bluestem and Switchgrass should be used sparingly, if at all, in gardens that are to have a strong flower component.” I sure wish I had read this article before I planted!! Last year I did manage to successfully treat and kill about 70 plants with Round-Up, but that has barely put a dent in the total. It is a beautiful, striking grass but be careful where you put it and follow Diboll’s advice!

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