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Audubon® Big Bluestem
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For those looking to recreate an authentic tallgrass-prairie ecosystem on their property, here is your key plant. Big Bluestem is a stately native Fringe that epitomizes the prairie aesthetic while also benefiting wildlife. The foliage feeds a variety of skipper butterfly larva, which in turn—along with katydids and leafhoppers that munch on the foliage—feed insectivorous songbirds. In fall and winter, several species of sparrows consume the seeds, and in rural areas on the Great Plains, prairie chickens eat them, too. The dense clumps of foliage also serve as good cover and nesting sites for ground-dwelling birds.
May Benefit & Attract: Sparrows and songbirds
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.
- Hardiness Zone: 4-9
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Recommended by Our Growers
Before the Midwestern landscape was covered with condos and cornfields, Big Bluestem grew wild all over our nation’s heartland. It was an important component of the American tallgrass prairie, its deep, fibrous roots (they can go down ten feet!) binding and enriching the soil and its soaring plumes standing shoulder-to-shoulder with native wildflowers. Besides benefitting birds, butterflies, and countless other animals, this dominant prairie grass also once served as a favorite fodder for roaming herds of bison. Today, cattle ranchers call it “ice cream for cows.” Here’s hoping you don’t have livestock grazing your garden!
Big Bluestem sometimes goes by the nickname “Turkey Toes,” because the plumes end in three-parted seedheads that look like turkey feet. The delicate plumes catch the light in magical ways. Plant Big Bluestem where the sun will shine through it in the evening and treat yourself to a dazzling late summer scene as you relax on your porch or patio.
How to Grow
All-day sun is a must for Big Bluestem. It tends to get floppy in low-light conditions. This adaptable Fringe is suitable for dry or moist (not wet) soils. It’s long-lived, easy to grow, and not affected by any major insect pests or diseases. It thrives in hot-summer climates, but it also withstands temperatures down to -40ºF in winter! Leave the plant standing for winter interest, cutting it back to the ground in early spring. Big Bluestem is a warm-season grower, which means that it needs some heat in order to break dormancy in spring. Be patient.
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