Big Blue Stem (Andropogon gerardii)

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Plant Details

Category: Perennial
Light: Sun to Part Shade
Bloom Season: Summer, Autumn
Height: 4-6' / 
1.2-1.8m
Space: 2-3' / 
0.6-0.9m
Zones: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Lowest Temp: -50° to -40°F / 
-46° to -40°C
Colors: Purple

Basic Care

Adapts to most soil types. Best in fertile, well-drained soil. Keep soil moist, watering freely in dry weather. Cut back in early spring as new growth appears.

Water

Keep well-watered.

Soil

Adapts to most soil types.

Feed

Slow release feed in spring.

plants that grow upright

Grows Upright

Ornamental Foliage

Sun Loving

Good Fall Color

hedges

Hedges

dried flowers

Dried Flower

cut flowers

Cut Flowers

border plants

Borders

Features

Upright, clump-forming selection with arching blue-green leaves. Purplish flower spikes appear late in the season. The foliage turns bronze-red in autumn.

Uses

Adapts to most soil types.

Big Blue Stem (Andropogon gerardii) Care Guide

Incorporate fertilizer into the soil when preparing beds for new plants. Established plants should be fed in early spring, then again halfway through the growing season. Avoid applying fertilizer late in the growing season. This stimulates new growth that can be easily damaged by early frosts.

Fertilizers are available in many forms: granulated, slow-release, liquid feeds, organic or synthetic. Determine which application method is best for the situation and select a product with a nutritional balance designed to encourage blooming (such as 5-10-5).

Reduce the need to fertilize in general by applying a 1-2” (3-5cm) layer of mulch or compost annually. As mulch breaks down it supplies nutrients to the plants and improves the overall soil condition at the same time.

New plantings should be watered daily for a couple of weeks. After that, depending on the weather and soil type, watering may be adjusted to every two or three days. Clay soils hold moisture longer than sandy soils, so expect to water more frequently in sandy settings.

Different plants have different water needs. Some plants prefer staying on the dry side, others, like to be consistently moist. Refer to the plant label to check a plant’s specific requirements.

Ideally water should only be applied to the root zone – an area roughly 6-12” (15-30cm) from the base of the plant, not the entire plant. A soaker hose is a great investment for keeping plants healthy and reducing water lost through evaporation. Hand watering using a watering wand with a sprinkler head attached is also a good way to control watering. If the garden area is large, and a sprinkler is necessary, try to water in the morning so that plant foliage has time to dry through the day. Moist foliage encourages disease and mold that can weaken or damage plants.

Thoroughly soaking the ground up to 8” (20 cm) every few days is better than watering a little bit daily. Deep watering encourages roots to grow further into the ground resulting in a sturdier plant with more drought tolerance.

To check for soil moisture, use your finger or a small trowel to dig in and examine the soil. If the first 2-4” (5-10cm) of soil is dry, it is time to water.

Depending on the flowering habit, snip off faded blooms individually, or wait until the blooming period is over and remove entire flower stalk down to the base of the plant. Removing old flower stems keeps the plant’s energy focused on vigorous growth instead of seed production. Foliage can be pruned freely through the season to remove damaged or discolored leaves, or to maintain plant size.

Do not prune plants after September 1st. Pruning stimulates tender new growth that will damage easily when the first frosts arrive. Perennial plants need time to prepare for winter, or “harden off”. Once plants have died to the ground they are easy to clean up by simply cutting back to about 4” (10cm) above the ground.

The flowering plumes and foliage of ornamental grasses create a beautiful feature in the winter landscape. Leave the entire plant for the winter and cut it back to the ground in early spring, just before new growth starts.

Perennials should be dug up and divided every 3-4 years. This stimulates healthy new growth, encourages future blooming, and provides new plants to expand the garden or share with gardening friends.

Incorporate fertilizer into the soil when preparing beds for new plants. Established plants should be fed in early spring, then again halfway through the growing season. Avoid applying fertilizer late in the growing season. This stimulates new growth that can be easily damaged by early frosts.

Fertilizers are available in many forms: granulated, slow-release, liquid feeds, organic or synthetic. Determine which application method is best for the situation and select a product with a nutritional balance designed to encourage blooming (such as 5-10-5).

Reduce the need to fertilize in general by applying a 1-2” (3-5cm) layer of mulch or compost annually. As mulch breaks down it supplies nutrients to the plants and improves the overall soil condition at the same time.

Companion/Combination Plants

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