This large cosmopolitan genus gleans its name from the Greek word pogon, or beard, alluding to the lustrous hairs that blanket the inflorescences. Closely associated with Schizachyrium, 13 clump-forming warm season Andropogon hail from North America. Many of the garden-worthy Beardgrass are often drought tolerant, and generally characterized by attractive, easily grown sturdy demeanors, late summer blooms plus prismatic autumn color.
Historically renowned as the sod our ancestors broke their backs busting, Big Bluestem is the most widespread of all the prairie grasses. Its regal and wild color show makes it a must in our garden. Growing to great size, the stand’s lush, blue-blushed summer greenery becomes a burgundy and copper glory at first frost. Soaring three-pronged red seed heads beg its other common name, Turkeyfoot.
Reliable, heat tolerant and sturdy, Andropogon gerardii thrives in poorly drained clay to dry sandy soils, and easily transitions the outskirts of your garden into the wild meadow beyond.
Blooms late August–October
Size: 5' 0" – 8' 0" high x 3' 0" wide.
Hardy to zone 4.
Spotted near Crowley, Texas by John Snowden, acclaimed grass expert and Bluestem Nursery founder, this American native’s unwavering fortitude belies its graceful lush-looking silhouette. Thick, straight bluish mauve-hued stalks supporting slim, 3-pronged rubescent inflorescences emerge from large, upright ¼ in. wide powder-blue blades, which broadcast reddish purple, dusky pink, tangerine and copper tones in September. An undemanding color-rich candidate for dry sunny locales, ‘Lord Snowden’ can be massed or planted as a specimen, and associated with Astrantia ‘White Giant’ and Gaura ‘So White’.
Size: 5' 0" – 7' 0" high x 4' 0" wide.
Hardy to zone 3.
This recent Intrinsic Perennial Garden introduction is quickly earning kudos for its spectacular shades of red and long-lived amenable character. August brings rich cardinal-red accents to lush dark green blades that define a substantial straight-up clump, while unique 3-branched inflorescences with bright red pollen sacs roost above. Boasting fiery scarlet-red and burgundy colors by the first frost, aptly named ‘Red October’ furnishes welcome cover for nesting birds and makes a galvanizing addition to a mixed planting, meadow garden or naturalized space. (PPAF)
Size: 5' 0" – 6' 0" high x 2' 0" wide.
Hardy to zone 3.
A more refined, compact form of the variable southeastern native, this winning, tough-as-nails cultivar was recently selected by North Carolina Arboretum Curator Terry Dalton. Initially spotted at his fifth-generation farm near Black Mountain, N.C., its upright, glaucous blue-green base looks similar to both Andropogon virginicus and Schizachyrium scoparium, though its pearlescent floral display is singular. Green flowering stalks develop maroon hues and slim stems, which jut out, affording bird-friendly, tuft-like spikelets with sparkling silvery white hairs plus a wondrous glimmering halo. Ideal for a well-drained, midborder position, Split Bluestem’s tidy, low growing habit hosts purple, copper and red fall leaves and tackles drought, but sulks in overly wet soil.
Size: 2-1/2' – 3' 0" high x 15" – 18" wide.
Hardy to zone 6.