Skip to main content

For Your Garden - February 2009

A little touch of color in your garden or landscaping is possible all year. Native prairie grasses are resistant to cold and drought and are rarely attacked by disease and insects. Their stems, leaves and seed heads provide beauty and wildlife habitat in winter. These perennials require little care and can be enjoyed for years to come.

little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
Photo © John Hilty

Little bluestem is a prairie bunch grass. Its “bluestem” name comes from the blue-green color of the leaves and flower stalks in spring and summer. After a frost, however, the stems turn an attractive orange-brown shade that persists throughout the winter, making a nice contrast to snow. It can brighten any gray, winter day. Little bluestem blooms in August and September. The white flowers form in a cluster at the tip of each side stalk. The seeds are small and have feathery white projections. This plant may grow to a height of four feet. It is native to dry prairies in the state.

Classification and taxonomy are based on Mohlenbrock, Robert H. 2014. Vascular flora of Illinois: A field guide. Fourth edition. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale. 536 pp.

Illinois Range

Native Plant Information

For more information about Illinois native plants, visit our Native Habitat Descriptions, Requirements, and Plant Lists page. The following publications are available from the IDNR on our publications page.


​Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Magnoliophyta
Class: Liliopsida
Order: Cyperales
Family: Poaceae

Illinois Status: common, native