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A key plant in American prairies, big bluestem is so named because it has attractive blue-green foliage through the growing season. As summer fades to fall, it takes on golden, red, and purplish hues, complementing the rosy forked seed heads. As you would expect from a native prairie grass, it thrives in poor, dry soils and in full sun.
From 3 to 20 feet
2-3 feet wide
more varieties for Big bluestem
Andropogon glomeratus is an easy-to-grow species from North America that features fantastic copper fall color. It tolerates a range of soil types, from wet to dry. This fast spreader can be too aggressive for small gardens. Broomsedge bluestem grows 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide. Zones 5-8
Andropogon glomeratus is a North American native grass with blue-green foliage in summer that turns coppery-red in autumn. It's prized for its fluffy flower stalks that crown the plant in fall. It grows 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Zones 4-10
plant Big bluestem with
Purple coneflower is so easy to grow and attractive and draws so many birds and butterflies that you simply must grow it, if you have the room. Valued for its large sturdy daisylike flowers with dropping petals, this prairie native will spread easily in good soil and full sun. It is bothered by few pests or diseases. It's a great cut flower -- bring in armloads of it to brighten the house. And birds and butterflies love it. Allow it to spread so that you have at least a small stand of it. Let the flowers go to seed and the goldfinches will love you, coming to feast on the seeds daily. Butterflies and helpful bees also love purple coneflower.It used to be that rosy purple or white were the only choices in flower color. Recent hybrids have introduced yellow, orange, burgundy, cream, and shades in between.
Joe Pye weed is a showstopper of a prairie native, producing huge, puffy flower heads in late summer. It prefers moist soils, but with its extensive root system, it also tolerates drought well. It is a large plant, growing 4 to 6 feet tall.Closely related, hardy ageratum is a spreading plant that grows to only 2 feet tall. Another relative, white snakeroot, reaches 4 to 5 feet tall. All are great for naturalistic or cottage plantings and for attracting butterflies.
False sunflowers are easily confused with perennial sunflowers, but they have the advantage of being more compact (less floppy) and blooming earlier so you can have more sunflowerlike flowers longer. Their brilliant yellow single, semidouble, or fully double flowers bloom over many weeks. They make excellent cut flowers. Tall varieties may require staking. Divide the plants every couple of years to ensure vigor.