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What Is Bluestem Grass?

Andropogon gerardii shrub

Bluestem grass is a versatile and resilient plant known for its distinctive blue-green color and tall growth.

It has gained popularity for its ability to thrive in various climates and soil conditions.

Its hardiness and adaptability make it a sought-after choice for homeowners, farmers, and land managers alike for use in their lawns, pastures, and natural landscapes.

Whether you’re a homeowner looking to enhance your landscape or a farmer seeking reliable pasture options, this article will provide you with the knowledge necessary to grow, care for, and appreciate the qualities of bluestem grass.

What Is Bluestem Grass?

Bluestem grass is a diverse group of grasses known for their blue-green coloration and agricultural contributions.

They belong to the Andropogon genus in the grass family Poaceae with common species including Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Sand Bluestem, and Silver Bluestem.

These grasses are predominantly native to North America but well-adapted to various climates and are often used as forage for livestock due to their nutritional value.

These warm-season grasses grow actively during the warmer months and are typically perennial.

They exhibit clumping or bunching growth habits and are vital in preventing soil erosion, supporting wildlife habitats, and maintaining grassland ecosystems.

How To Identify Bluestem Grass?

Little Bluestem
Source: Wikimedia

Bluestem grass is versatile and can be found in various regions, including prairies, meadows, and open fields.

If you come across any grass that looks like it, here are a few ways to identify it.

Color

Bluestem grass gets its name from its blue-green color.

So when you come across a patch of grass with a bluish hue, you may have stumbled upon bluestem grass.

Height

Bluestem grass can vary in height, but generally, it’s taller than your average lawn grass.

It can reach anywhere from 2 to 4 feet (60-120 cm) tall, sometimes even taller.

So, if you spot a bunch of bluestem grass towering over the rest, it could be bluestem grass.

Seedheads

Bluestem grass has distinct seed heads that make it stand out.

The seed heads are unique, resembling a turkey foot or a bird’s claw.

So, if you spot some grass with these funky-looking seed heads, chances are it’s bluestem grass.

Leaves

Bluestem grass leaves are long and narrow, with rough edges.

If you gently run your fingers along the leaves and notice a slightly rough texture, it’s another sign that you’re dealing with bluestem grass.

How To Grow Bluestem Grass?

Little bluestem prairie grass
Source: Wikimedia

Here’s how to grow bluestem grass.

Prepare the Growing Location

Bluestem grass loves the sun, so pick a spot in your yard with enough sunlight throughout the day.

It also prefers well-drained soil.

So loosen the soil before planting and remove any weeds or rocks that might hinder its growth.

Seed, Sod, or Plug Planting

There are three options for planting bluestem grass—seeding, plug planting, or using sod.

Using seeding, spread the bluestem grass seeds evenly across the prepared soil.

For sod, lay the bluestem grass sod squares on top of the soil, ensuring they fit snugly together.

You can purchase or propagate small sections of mature bluestem grass with roots and place them firmly in prepared soil for plug planting.

Watering

Once established, Bluestem grass is low-maintenance but needs proper care during the initial growing stages.

Water the freshly planted seeds or sod regularly, keeping the soil moist but not waterlogged.

Fertilizing

Bluestem grass doesn’t require heavy fertilization.

So a light application of a balanced slow-release fertilizer in early spring can boost its growth.

But following the application rates on the fertilizer label is crucial, as too much fertilizer can cause severe damage.

Mowing

Once your bluestem grass has reached a height of around 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm), you can trim it to keep it neat and tidy.

Set your lawnmower to a higher setting to maintain a height of 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm). It’s like giving your grass a stylish haircut.

How To Kill Bluestem Grass?

Sometimes you need to eliminate bluestem grass.

Here are three methods for just that.

Method #1: Smothering

Smothering involves covering the bluestem grass with a barrier to deprive it of sunlight and oxygen.

You can use materials like thick layers of newspapers, cardboard, or black plastic sheets.

Place the barrier over the grass, secure the edges, and leave it in place for several weeks to smother and kill the grass beneath.

Method #2: Solarization

Solarization involves using the sun’s heat to kill unwanted vegetation.

It is most effective during the hot summer months.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Clear the area of any debris or vegetation.
  2. Wet the soil thoroughly.
  3. Cover the area with a clear plastic sheet, ensuring it is tightly secured and has direct contact with the soil.
  4. Leave the plastic in place for several weeks, allowing the sun’s heat to build up and kill the bluestem grass.

Method #3: Use of Herbicides

Consider using herbicides if the infestation is heavy or other methods have proven ineffective.

It’s important to note that herbicides can also harm desirable plants, so use them carefully and follow the instructions on the product label.

It is best to consult a local gardening professional or extension office for guidance on selecting and applying herbicides specifically for bluestem grass control.

Precautionary Measures

When using any of these methods, monitoring the area and repeating the process to ensure complete removal of the bluestem grass is essential.

Conclusion

Bluestem grass is a remarkable plant that benefits both agriculture and the environment.

Consider planting it in your space to enjoy its benefits and contribute to a healthier ecosystem.

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