Indian Grass, Sorghastrum nutans

Indian Grass

Sorghastrum nutans

Sun Shade:
Bloom Time: Late Summer/Early Fall
Zones: 3, 4, 5
Soil Conditions: Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil Moisture: Moist, Dry, Medium
Color: Straw, Gold
Fragrance: No
Height: 5 - 7 feet
Spacing: 2 feet


Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans) is a warm season perennial grass which typically occurs in prairies, glades and open woods. It was one of the dominant grasses of the tallgrass prairie which once covered large parts of the Midwest. Typically grows 3-5 feet tall and is noted for its upright form and blue-green foliage. It forms upright clumps (to 2-3 feet tall) of slender, blue-green leaves Foliage turns orange-yellow in fall and usually retains hints of color into the winter. Stiff, vertical flowering stems, topped with narrow, feathery, light brown flower panicles (to 12 inches long) highlighted with yellow stamens, rise well above the foliage clump in late summer to 5-6 feet tall. Panicles darken to bronze/chestnut brown in fall as they mature, later fading to gray. Panicles continue to provide some interest well into winter. The root system is fibrous and short-rhizomatous.

Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun. Tolerant of a wide range of soils including heavy clays. Does well in poor, dry, infertile soils. Tends to open up and/or flop in moist, rich soils however. May naturalize by self-seeding in optimum growing conditions.

Habitats include typical savannas and sandy savannas, black soil prairies, clay prairies, sand prairies, gravel prairies, dolomite prairies, hill prairies, cemetery prairies, barrens with scrubby vegetation, limestone glades, grassy fens, fallow fields, roadsides, and areas along railroads (particularly where prairie remnants occur). Indian Grass is often used in tallgrass prairie restorations.

Plant Notes and Herbal Uses
  Effective on slopes for erosion control. It can spread aggressively.
  Provides nesting habitat and protective cover for many kinds of birds, including the Ring-necked Pheasant, Greater Prairie Chicken, Northern Bobwhite, Mourning Dove, and Field Sparrow.
  Cut back to the ground in late winter to early spring
Further Information

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 Wisconsin Native Plant Nurseries