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What Is Prairie Dropseed: Tips For Growing Prairie Dropseed Plants
By Karen Boness, Owner of Wild Willow Landscape Design
If you?re looking for something different in the native plant or wildlife garden, then take a look at prairie dropseed grass. This attractive ornamental grass has much to offer in the landscape. Learn how to care for it here.
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A preferred native grass for prairie gardens, Prairie Dropseed's magnificent fountain of fine textured leaves adds a touch of elegance to any planting. A burst of flowering panicles on slender stems float above the tufted grass in late summer in tints …
|Soil Type||Loam, Sand|
|Soil Moisture||Dry, Medium|
|Sun Exposure||Full Sun|
|Height||2' - 4'|
|Bloom Color||Green, Cream|
|Bloom Time||Aug, Sep|
|Zones||3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8|
|Benefits||Birds, Deer Resistant|
|Seeds per Oz||14000|
|Propagation Treatment||Dry Stratification, Moist Stratification|
|Days to Moist Stratify||30 days|
|Direct Sowing Time||Early Spring, Fall|
A preferred native grass for prairie gardens, Prairie Dropseed's magnificent fountain of fine textured leaves adds a touch of elegance to any planting. A burst of flowering panicles on slender stems float above the tufted grass in late summer in tints of pink and brown. The bloom has a unique fragrance with hints of coriander. In fall the foliage color turns to hues of gold. Considered by many to be the most handsome of the prairie grasses, Prairie Dropseed makes a well-defined and distinctive border when planted 18 to 24 inches apart. Plains Indians ground the seed to make a tasty flour. Plant the seed in fall or early spring for best results.
Native plants can be grown outside of their native range in the appropriate growing conditions. This map shows the native range, as well as the introduced range, of this species.
- Plants are shipped during one of our "plant shipping periods" which occur twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall.
- Plants ordered now are being scheduled for our spring plant-shipping period.
- During checkout, you will choose a Shipping Week for your plant delivery. Availability is filled on a first-come-first-serve basis.
- You will receive an emailed order confirmation which includes the dates for your Shipping Week.
- When your plants ship you will receive an email with tracking information.
- Learn more about how we ship your plants …
- Seed orders are shipped year-round, and are shipped within a week of your order.
- We are not able to combine a new order with a previous order, for shipping.
- Plants and Seeds are shipped separately and have different shipping rates, found here…
- With all orders, credit cards are pre-authorized and charged when your order is placed.
- We are not able to arrange orders for pick-up at the Nursery. All orders are shipped.
- Plants and Seeds are shipped to destinations within the contiguous United States, only.
Audubon® Prairie Dropseed
We currently do not deliver to your area at this time, please contact us to discuss other options.
All the little ground-dwelling birds will be grateful for the addition of this sweet native Fringe to your garden. Sparrow, juncos, towhees, and doves will happily bob about among the grassy tufts, foraging for seeds in fall and winter. In summer, they may find the occasional grasshopper or caterpillar hiding there, too, and grab a quick snack. Prairie Dropseed provides cover from predators for these friendly backyard birds, as well as nesting material in the form of dried leaves and stems. Leave it standing until spring, and winter-resident birds will make use of it all season.
Take Birds Under Your Wing
New! Introducing our bird-friendly collection of Audubon® Native Plants & Trees
- Better for Birds, 100% Neonic-Free
- Not Available in non-native regions, states or counties (see Native Regions map)
Bower & Branch is proud to grow Audubon® Native Plants for Birds in partnership with the National Audubon Society to help birds and other wildlife thrive.
- The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow
- This bird-friendly native plant provides food and shelter for local and migrating birds and other wildlife
- Your purchase and planting of this native flora directly supports Audubon’s conservation mission and impact
- Learn how you can help birds in your home and community through Audubon’s Plants for Birds program
- Audubon Native Plants & Trees are free of neonicotinoids and exclusively grown by Bower & Branch
Audubon® is a licensed and registered trademark of the National Audubon Society. All rights reserved.
Prairie Dropseed is a North American native that was once more plentiful, growing from Saskatchewan to Quebec in Canada and reaching as far south as Texas here in the U.S. It was most common as a component in the vast Midwestern prairies. Development has since wiped out most of our prairielands, and Prairie Dropseed is now endangered in many of the states where it once flourished. Support this noble native by growing it in your landscape. Prairie garden not required! This classy Fringe is polished enough for formal, manicured landscapes as well as more naturalistic ones.
In fall, Prairie Dropseed turns up the heat when its lustrous green foliage takes on bright golden and pumpkin-orange tones. Its winter color is a pleasing peachy tan. The plant holds up well under ice and snow and supplies plenty of interest during the dormant season.
How to Grow
Even novice gardeners are likely to have great success with Prairie Dropseed. It’s easy to please, low maintenance, and long-lived. Give it a position in full sun if possible light shade will also suffice. Any kid of soil is suitable—even clay, as long as it drains well. Provide regular water during establishment. Eventually, Prairie Dropseed will be exceedingly drought tolerant. Yearly maintenance involves simply cutting the old foliage to the ground in early spring. Understand that this fabulous Fringe does take a few years to really settle in, but it’s totally worth the wait!
Shape or Form:
Size and Form
Prairie dropseed is a clumping grass that grows 2 to 3 feet tall and has a arching, mounded shape.
Full sun and well-drained soils are best for this species. Tolerant of heat and drought.
This is a warm season grass, so its most active growth occurs in summer. It will remain standing in winter and can act as winter interest.
Since this grass remains attractive through winter, it should not be cut back until early spring, before new growth begins. At that time, it can be cut down to the ground.
Disease, pests, and problems
No serious disease or insect problems.
Native geographic location and habitat
Native to much of the United States and Canada.
The thin (1/8 to 1/16 inch wide), green leaves will grow 2-3 feet long, and will arch gracefully forming a fountain-like mound. Fall color is golden, often with orange tones.
Flowering occurs in late summer (usually August and September). The tiny flowers occur on airy, branched structures. Unlike most grasses, prairie dropseed has fragrant flowers. The scent is often compared to buttered popcorn. The flowers are wind pollinated.
The small fruit (caryopsis or grains) form along the branched structures that held the flowers.
Cultivars and their differences
“This plant is a cultivar of a species that is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits."
Dwarf prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis 'Tara'): A compact cultivar growing 18 to 24 inches tall, with a more upright habit.
Add texture and elegance to any garden or border with the North American native prairie dropseed.
Hardy in zones 3 to 8 this fine textured grass forms a mound of emerald green. The plant grows 2 to 4 feet tall and turns a nice orange in fall.
The silvery flowers of prairie dropseed appear in late summer and early fall and smell like burnt or buttered popcorn or some say Juicy Fruit gum. The dainty flower turns to round seedpods and persists through winter. When covered in ice they glisten like gems in the garden.
Plant them 18 to 24 inches apart to form a border or plant irregularly throughout a garden to use as a weaver and unify a planting.
Grow prairie dropseed in full sun with well-drained soil for best results. This beauty is resistant to deer, drought, black walnut and air pollution.
A bit more information: Prairie dropseed is as at home in formal as natural landscapes. Combine it with threadleaf coreopsis or sun loving coleus for a more cultivated look or plant with other natives plants like hyssop, rattlesnake master, coneflower and wild quinine.