Sporobolus heterolepis  

Sporobolus heterolepis    Perennial of the Month-- March 2014 Perry caricature

 (pronunciation at link)  (spor-o-bowl' us  het-er-o-lep' iss)

Common name:  Prairie Dropseed

Family:  Poaceae, grass

Height x width: 2-3ft x 2-3ft

Growth rate, habit: slow, upright arching clump

Foliage: fine textured, hair-like to 20in. long, golden with orange hues in fall turning light bronze in winter

Flowers:  open panicles on wiry stems above foliage in late summer, to 30-36in. tall, pink and brown tints, slight unique fragrance resembling coriander

Hardiness: USDA zones 3-8 (average minimum -30F or colder)

Soil:  average, well-drained; prefers dry and rocky once established, tolerates clay soils; tolerates drought once established

Light:  full sun

Pests and problems:  none significant

Landscape habit, uses:  massed groundcover for hot, dry areas; prairie and meadow gardens, native plant gardens, slopes, large rock gardens, along foundations or walks, in borders, birds; deer resistant and tolerates air pollution; combines well with alliums, coneflowers, liatris, tall sedum, asters, Russian sage, salvia, catmint

Other interest: good textural plant, good fall color; seeds drop in late fall, hence the name, but doesn't self-sow aggressively; native peoples of the Plains ground the seeds for flour; native to Midwest plains, seldom in the East

Other culture:  low maintenance, slow to establish-- 4 years to flower from seeding

Propagation:  division, seeds

Sources:  many online and local specialty nurseries

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