Friday, 20 January 2012

Sporobolus heterolepsis (Prairie dropseed) at Lovegrass Farm

Sporobolus heterolepsis (Prairie dropseed) Sept. 2, 2011
Sporobolus (spor-AH-bol-us) heterolepsis (het-er-oh-LEP-is) or Prairie dropseed is a warm season grass that is refined enough to fit into formal gardens and is also a natural choice for prairie and meadow gardens.  It's very fine arching leaves; to 20" (50 cm.) turn from summer green to gold/orange in the fall.  Tall, wispy inflorescence's 30" (75 cm.) high rise up thickly over the tufts, with fine panicles of tiny flowers and seeds.  The flowers produce nectar for bees, butterflies & hummingbirds.  The seed bracts are white when ripe and the flower stems turn the same orange color as the leaves in the fall.
Prairie dropseed July 5, 2011 (showing fine foliage)
Prairie dropseed July 18, 2011 (moves in the breeze)
Prairie dropseed Early Aug, 2010, Rooftop garden at Boothbay Botanical Gardens in Maine
Prairie dropseed prefers dry sandy soil but does great on a wide range of soil types.  It is deep rooted and extremely drought tolerant once established which makes it very effective for erosion control on a slope and it is now being used in roof top gardens.
Aug. 5, 2011 (starting to flower)
Aug. 25, 2011 (at sunset)
It is a slow grower that takes about 4 years to reach blooming size from seed but will grow without care for decades without any centre die back or need for renewal and is hardy to Zone 3.  Prairie dropseed likes full sun or light shade and makes a well-defined and distinctive border when planted 18 - 24" (45 - 60 cm) apart.  It's hairlike foliage is ideal for softening edges of sidewalks and patios.  It does not freely self-seed in the garden.  Prairie dropseed is on the threatened and endangered species list in Saskatchewan, Canada and in some of the United States.
Oct. 2, 2011 (fall stem color is starting to show)
Oct. 19, 2011 (changing color)
Prairie dropseed rivals Little Bluestem in mass plantings.  Inter plant with spring bulbs so you have a show before the grasses grow and inter plant narrow leaved echinaceas, liatris & sedum "Matrona' for a later show.  They also have an added bonus of a unique fragrance that has been compared to coriander or popcorn.  I found that it was especially noticeable when the air was calm.  The edible seed head is an attraction to birds.  Plains Indians ground the seed to make a tasty flour.
I can't say enough about this low-maintenance plant!  Sunrise and sunset; especially with dew or frost made it look Spectacular!  I truly enjoyed watching it change through the seasons!


  1. It's great that you talk yourself warm for the Prairie Dropseed. It is really a lovely little friend and definitely one of my favorites among the prairie grasses. It grows well here in southern Sweden as well and has enough time to develop the fragrant flowers before the cold sets in. Nice choice!

  2. Thanks Peter. That's interesting. I'm assuming that it is a native grass in Sweden, as well as here?

  3. It's a wonderful grass, i love his color in autumn, for me it's a classic to have in the garden !

  4. Thanks Fred, amazing that we are enjoying the same plants, though thousands of miles apart!

  5. LOVE this grass! It is on the list of plants going in my new "Natives" garden this year. Thanks for the wonderful feature.

  6. Thank You, Shyrlene. Looking forward to seeing your garden!