FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Standing Ovation’ is a sturdy upright Little Bluestem cultivar. Plants have attractive fine textured blue-green foliage. In late summer small flowers are held on branched stems above the leaves. Fluffy light catching seed clusters appear and foliage displays intense orange-red hues in fall. The color continues through most of the winter on plants that maintain an upright habit. 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.
‘Standing Ovation’ was introduced by North Creek Nurseries of Landenberg, Pennsylvania. As the name indicates, this variety was selected for its strong stems and ability to remain upright when other cultivars flop. This cultivar also boasts steely blue leaves, compact habit and intense fall foliage color.
Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Standing Ovation’ is hardy from USDA Zones 3-8.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Standing Ovation’ is a durable warm season bunch grass with a narrow upright habit.
Young leaves and stems are an attractive steely blue with deep purple highlights. Stems and leaves are wider, thicker and sturdier than the species allowing this cultivar to stand strong through adverse growing conditions.
In late summer, branched flower stalks emerge and are held above the leaves. Clusters of fluffy silver seed heads follow in tandem with brilliant orange and burgundy fall foliage.
During winter, plants maintain their stunning fall color or develop glowing amber foliage. The striking vertical stems and handsome upright habit also persevere through inclement winter weather.
This cultivar is about 3-4’ tall with a 12-18” spread.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Standing Ovation’ prospers in sunny sites with lean mesic to dry soils.
Plants tolerate clay, gravel, sand, alkalinity, drought, heat, humidity and moderate salinity. This cultivar is reported to be more tolerant of excess water and over-irrigation than other members of the species. As a result, this variety is being marketed to growers with overhead irrigation.
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 a striking vertical Accent or Mass Planting for Residential Gardens, Urban Meadows and Roadsides. Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Standing Ovation’ has a succession of color changes that makes it a star of the Fall and Winter 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 ‘Prairie Munchkin’ is a possible substitute. Plants have shorter height but similar foliage and cultural needs.
TRIVIA: At Penn State’s Landisville Trials this cultivar received a 5 star rating and was acknowledged as “Best of the Species”.