Content Detail

Blue grama is an upright, smaller grass than the closely related side oats grama. It grows only eight to 15 inches tall. It was a common grass in the shortgrass prairie. 

  • Family (English) Grass
  • Family (botanic) Poaceae
  • Tree or plant type Grass, Perennial
  • Native locale Illinois, North America
  • Size range Medium plant (12-24 inches), Small plant (6-12 inches)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 10, Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Chicago), Zone 6, Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Alkaline soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites, Occasional drought, Road salt
  • Season of interest early fall, early winter, late fall, late summer, mid fall, midsummer, midwinter
  • Flower color and fragrance Purple
  • Shape or form Upright

Size:

This species is a small, upright grass growing eight to ten inches tall and up to 15 inches when in flower.

Native geographic location and habitat:

It is native to a few counties in Illinois and most of North America.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

The leaves are up to 10 inches long, but narrow and grown mostly from the base of the plant. In the summer, the leaves are gray-green and change to purplish tones in the fall and then to tan or straw colored in the winter.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Blue grama flowers in late summer, typically July to September. The tiny, purplish flowers are held in comb-like structures resembling mosquito larvae which is why it is also called mosquito grass. They are held at right angles to the stalk and are wind pollinated.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

The small caryopsis or grain fruits form within the comb-like structure that held the flowers. The comb-like structures start out silvery-white, then turn purple and then straw colored as they mature.

Plant Care:

Blue grama tolerates heat and drought well. In the wetter Midwest, it doesn’t do well as a turf grass, but in the Southwestern United States, it is used for lawns. While it is considered a clumping grass, it actually spreads very slowly by rhizomes and seed. As a warm season grass, most of its growth occurs in summer. Blue grama will remain standing and attractive throughout winter, it should not be cut back to the ground until early spring, before new growth begins.

List of pests and diseases:

It doesn’t have any serious problems.

Blond Ambition (Boutleloua gracilis ‘Blond Ambition’):

This cultivar has larger flowers than the species that are chartreuse. The fruit matures to a blonde color.

Donate

Your support is vital to the Arboretum, where the power of trees makes a positive impact on people’s lives.

Make a gift