Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!


Plant Database

Search for native plants by scientific name, common name or family. If you are not sure what you are looking for, try the Combination Search or our Recommended Species lists.

Enter a Plant Name:
Or you can choose a plant family:
Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)
Strickland, Sam C.

Schizachyrium scoparium

Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash

Little Bluestem, Popotillo Azul

Poaceae (Grass Family)


USDA Symbol: scsc

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), HI (I), CAN (N)

Little Bluestem is a very ornamental bunchgrass with fine-textured foliage that forms very dense mounds 18-24 inches tall. Slender blue-green stems often reach 5 feet, or more, by September, and become radiant mahogany-red with white, shining seed tufts in the fall. Color remains nearly all winter. Perennial clumps grow up to a foot in diameter.

This mid-prairie species gets its name from the bluish color of the stem bases in the spring, but most striking is the plant's reddish-tan color in fall, persisting through winter snows. The seeds, fuzzy white at maturity, are of particular value to small birds in winter. A related species, Big Bluestem or Turkeyfoot (Andropogon gerardii), has finger-like seed heads that somewhat resemble a turkey's foot. It reaches a height of 12 feet in favorable bottomland sites and is also one of the East's most important native prairie grasses.


From the Image Gallery

51 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Grass/Grass-like
Root Type: Fibrous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Venation: Parallel
Fruit Type: Caryopsis
Size Notes: Up to about 7 feet tall, often shorter.
Leaf: Gray-Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Purple

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct , Nov , Dec


USA: AL , AR , AZ , CA , CO , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , HI , IA , ID , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , MT , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , UT , VA , VT , WA , WI , WV , WY
Canada: AB , BC , MB , NB , NS , ON , SK
Native Distribution: Que. & ME to Alt. & ID, south through much of the US east of the Rockies, south to Tabasco in southeastern Mexico
Native Habitat: Woodlands' edge, Opening, Hillsides, Slopes, Prairie, Plains, Meadows, Pastures, Savannas

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Drought Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Well-drained soil. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Limestone-based
Conditions Comments: Little bluestem is wonderful planted en masse. The visual dynamics it provides range from blue-green in late summer to golden with cotton-tufted seedheads in winter. It readily reseeds so little bluestem is not recommended for small gardens. Little bluestem is tolerant of a wide range of soils but will not tolerate wetlands or sub-irrigated sites.


Use Ornamental: Fall conspicuous, Grows in clumps, Accent
Use Wildlife: Graze, Cover, Nesting material, Seeds-Small mammals, Seeds-granivorous birds.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Ottoe Skipper, Indian Skipper, Crossline Skipper, Dusted Skipper, Cobweb butterfly, Dixie skipper
Deer Resistant: High

Value to Beneficial Insects

Provides Nesting Materials/Structure for Native Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Dusted Skipper
(Atrytonopsis hianna)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Indian Skipper
(Hesperia sassacus)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Crossline Skipper
(Polites origenes)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Ottoe Skipper
(Hesperia ottoe)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA


Propagation Material: Root Division
Description: Easily propagated
Seed Collection: Sep. and Oct.
Seed Treatment: Dry stratification
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Order seed of this species from Native American Seed and help support the Wildflower Center.

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Native grasses for medians in Colorado Springs
June 11, 2010
Our city has stopped watering our historic landscaped medians due to severe budget shortfalls. The medians were historically tree boulevards but have had curb and gutter and blue grass added over th...
view the full question and answer

When to plant grasses on Long Island, NY
December 06, 2009
Dear Mr. Smarty Plants; Are there any grass seeds that I can plant NOW, early December, on Long Island, NY? The planting environment is on and near a sandy bluff on a bayshore, where it can be windy ...
view the full question and answer

Plants to stop erosion in Arizona
January 17, 2009
I'm looking for a plant to stop erosion; I have big wash outs that are starting to erode my yard so I guess I'm looking for deep rooting plants. I live south of Tucson, Arizona. If you can advise me...
view the full question and answer

Native grasses for shade in Dallas
November 30, 2008
What native grasses can be grown under large Live Oaks in the Dallas Area? The combination of shade and black gumbo soil seem to keep all plant life, except for poison ivy and ferns, out. I would lo...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a steep lot in Tennessee
August 07, 2008
I have built a home on a very steep lot (approx 1 1/2 acres)in Northern Central Tenn in Jackson County. The lot is too steep to mow and some of it is too steep to stand on comfortably. My question is...
view the full question and answer

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Austin, TX
Native Plant Center at Westchester Community College, The - Valhalla, NY
Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Brackenridge Field Laboratory - Austin, TX
Patsy Glenn Refuge, c/o Wimberley Birding Society - Wimberley, TX
NPSOT - Native Plant Society of Texas - Fredericksburg, TX
Stengl Biological Research Station - Smithville, TX
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - Austin, TX
NPSOT - Fredericksburg Chapter - Fredericksburg, TX
North American Native Plant Society - Etobicoke, ON
Texas Master Naturalists - Lost Pines Chapter - Bastrop, TX
NPSOT - Austin Chapter - Austin, TX
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
Jacob's Well Natural Area - Wimberley, TX
NPSOT - Williamson County Chapter - Georgetown, TX
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE

Wildflower Center Seed Bank

LBJWC-61 Collected 2006-11-12 in Travis County by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

1 collection(s) available in the Wildflower Center Seed Bank


Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright
Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 946 - Gardening with Prairie Plants: How to Create Beautiful Native Landscapes (2002) Wasowski, Sally
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 291 - Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife (1999) Damude, N. & K.C. Bender
Bibref 1294 - The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants An Illustrated Guide (2011) Adelman, Charlotte and Schwartz, Bernard L.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.

Research Literature

Reslit 242 - Plant regeneration of creeping bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash var. Stoloniferum (Nash) J. Wipff) via somatic embryogenesis (2001) T. Chakravarty, J. G. Norcini, J. H. Aldrich and R...
Reslit 179 - Relative Rooting Depths of Native Grasses and Amenity Grasses with Potential for Use on Roadsides in New England (2010) R. N. Brown, C. Percivalle, S. Narkiewicz and S. D...
Reslit 351 - Evidence for Host Mycorrhizal Preference in Native Grassland Species (1992) S. S. Dhillion
Reslit 352 - Growth Dynamics and Associated Mycorrhizal Fungi of Little Bluestem Grass [Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx) Nash] on Burned and Unburned Sand Prairies (1993) S. S. Dhillion and R. C. Anderson
Reslit 341 - Structural attributes of Schizachyrium scoparium in restored Texas Blackland prairies (2004) J. D. Derner, H. W. Polley, H. B. Johnson and C. R...
Reslit 542 - Nutrient addition affects AM fungal performance and expression of plant/fungal feedback in three serpentine grasses (2004) D. J. Gustafson and B. B. Casper
Reslit 578 - Effects of bison grazing, fire, and topography on floristic diversity in tallgrass prairie (1996) D. C. Hartnett, K. R. Hickman and L. E. F. Walter
Reslit 632 - Establishing North American prairie vegetation in urban parks in northern England - Part 1. Effect of sowing season, sowing rate and soil type (2004) J. Hitchmough, M. de la Fleur and C. Findlay
Reslit 656 - Random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) variation among native little bluestem [Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash] populations from sites of high and low fertility in forest and grassland biomes (1998) D. R. Huff, J. A. Quinn, B. Higgins and A. J. Pala...
Reslit 714 - Response of Creeping Bluestem to Varying Month of Burn and Soil-Water Conditions (1995) R. Kalmbacher and F. G. Martin

This information was provided by the Florida WIldflower Foundation.
Search More Titles in Research Literature

From the Archive

Wildflower Newsletter 1985 VOL. 2, NO.4 - Message From Helen Hayes, Head for the Hill Country, Spring Tours at the Center,...
Wildflower Newsletter 1986 VOL. 3, NO.3 - Fall Planting Tips, Growth Provides Enthusiasm, 1985 Financial Facts, Gathering ...
Wildflower Newsletter 1989 VOL. 6, NO.4 - Spring Climbs Rockies Slowly, Colorado Cooler, Conference of Wildflower and Nati...
Wildflower Newsletter 1998 VOL. 15, NO.4 - Grasses from the Ground Up, Celebrating Wildflowers Hotline, Executive Director\...

Additional resources

USDA: Find Schizachyrium scoparium in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Schizachyrium scoparium in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Schizachyrium scoparium


Record Modified: 2023-01-26
Research By: TWC Staff

Go back