FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Schizachyrium scoparium ‘The Blues’ is a lovely upright blue tinted Little Bluestem cultivar. Plants have attractive fine textured steely blue foliage and rosy pink stems. In late summer small flowers are held on branched stems above the leaves. Fluffy light catching seed clusters appear and foliage displays delightful russet red hues in fall. The color continues into the winter. This handsome grass thrives in prairie type settings or in sunny gardens with mesic or dry soil.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: The parent species Schizachyrium scoparium ranges through most of the southern Canadian provinces and contiguous United States. Plants are indigenous to prairies, barrens, sandy savannas, glades with limestone, sandstone or shale outcrops, thinly wooded rocky bluffs, open woods, sand dunes, dry roadsides, gravelly railroad right of ways and abandoned fields.
‘The Blues’ was selected by Kurt Bluemel and named by Dale Hendricks of North Creek Nurseries. Bluemel made the selection from seedlings of the cultivar ‘Aldous’.
Schizachyrium scoparium ‘The Blues’ is hardy from USDA Zones 4-9.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Schizachyrium scoparium ‘The Blues’ is a warm season bunch grass with a narrow upright habit.
Young leaves and stems are an attractive powder blue with deep purple highlights. In late summer, branched rosy pink to red flower stalks emerge and are held above the leaves. Clusters of fluffy silver seed heads follow in tandem with brilliant burgundy to russet fall foliage.
During winter, plants maintain their stunning fall color or develop glowing amber foliage. The striking vertical stems and handsome upright habit may persevere through winter but generally the culms fan out and the grass develops a graceful open habit.
This cultivar is about 2-4’ tall with an 18” spread.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Schizachyrium scoparium ‘The Blues’ prospers in sunny sites with lean mesic to dry soils.
Plants tolerate clay, gravel, sand, alkalinity, drought, heat, humidity and moderate salinity.
Avoid planting in shade or applying excessive fertilizer or water as these conditions promote weak sprawling stems.
The only maintenance needed is to cut this grass to the ground in late winter.
LANDSCAPE USES: This variety is an attractive Accent or Mass Planting for Residential Gardens, Urban Meadows and Roadsides. Schizachyrium scoparium ‘The Blues’ has a succession of color changes that makes it a star of the Summer and Fall landscape. This cultivar provides Erosion Control, Fall Color, Showy Seedheads, Winter Interest and is appropriate for Containers, Cottage Gardens, Low Maintenance Plantings, Water Wise Landscapes and Perennial Borders.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Try pairing with Aster spectabilis, Bouteloua curtipendula, Coreopsis tripteris, Danthonia spicata, Echinacea purpurea, Eupatorium hyssopifolium, Liatris microcephala.or Sporobolus heterolepis.
Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Standing Ovation’ is a possible substitute. Plants have shorter height but similar foliage and cultural needs.
TRIVIA: Even though ‘The Blues’ is popular in eastern coastal plains gardens, it has mid-western origins. ‘The Blues’ is reportedly a seedling of ‘Aldous’. The cultivar ‘Aldous’ originated from a population of seedlings collected in the Flint Hills Prairie south of Manhattan, Kansas in 1935. ‘Aldous’ is tall, vigorous, uniform and medium-late maturing. The variety was named for A. E. Aldous, a grass researcher and Kansas State University Agronomy Professor and released in 1966 by the Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station.