Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem) thrives in thin or poor soils and is an important component of meadow and right-of-way communities. This short, warm-season grass delivers many benefits including providing a fantastic copper-color in the fall, acting as a host plant for more species of eastern butterflies than any other single plant, and lending a natural feel to any native garden.
Beware commercial nursery cultivars such as “Standing Ovation”, “The Blues”, “Blaze”, and “Camper”. These are cultivars and unsuitable for planting in any area where they might interbreed with local populations. Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem) is a highly variable species with local strains being highly adapted to local conditions. Introducing cultivars or foreign strains into a local population has been shown to reduce fitness (called outbreeding depression) and can lead to the eventual failure and disappearance of the species.
Little bluestem can be found growing from marshes to fields to serpentine barrens to little cracks in cliffs and are locally adapted to these conditions. When using Schizachyrium scoparium in a project, always demand local ecotypes and ideally strains from the same or similar growing conditions.