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SPOROBOLUS heterolepis

Image of Sporobolus heterolepis

James H. Schutte

Family

Poaceae

Botanical Name

SPOROBOLUS heterolepis

Plant Common Name

Prairie Dropseed

General Description

Prairie dropseed is a perennial, warm season grass which produces a mophead of emerald green, hair-like foliage accompanied by tall airy stems of fragrant pink flowers in late summer. It is native to the prairies and grasslands of central North America from southern Canada to Texas.

The long, narrow blades of this clump-forming grass form an arching fountain of foliage which often curls as its ends sweep the ground. The leaves are scented when crushed. In late summer, tall stems bear airy panicles of tiny, pink, fragrant flowers which catch the light beautifully when backlit. These give way to small, tan seeds that drop to the ground in autumn (hence, the plant’s common name). The foliage becomes golden yellow with hints of orange in fall, and turns light bronze and tan in winter.

This grass grows well in full sun to light shade, and is adaptable to a wide range of conditions. Average, moist garden soils are fine, as are hot, dry, exposed sites such as roadside verges, hillsides, or parking median strips. Prairie dropseed is somewhat slow-growing, but well worth the wait. It is particularly handsome grown in huge masses as a groundcover, and also works well in meadow gardens or mixed borders.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    10 - 2

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    3 - 8

  • Sunset Zone

    1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17

  • Plant Type

    Grass

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    18"-36" / 45.7cm - 91.4cm (24)

  • Width

    20"-24" / 50.8cm - 61.0cm

  • Bloom Time

    Late Summer

  • Native To

    North America, Northeastern United States, North-Central United States, Central United States, South-Central United States, Canada

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Pollution, Drought

  • Growth Rate

    Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Pink

  • Fruit Color

    Tan

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Yellow, Orange, Gold

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Tan, Bronze

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Fine

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Edging, Groundcover, Mixed Border, Wildflower

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes