Content Detail

Indian grass is a grass of the tallgrass prairie and is native to much of North America. It is a warm season, clumping grass. Flowering occurs in late summer but the plant remains attractive into winter. This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.  

  • Family (English) Grass
  • Family (botanic) Poaceae
  • Tree or plant type Grass, Perennial
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large plant (more than 24 inches)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Dry sites, Occasional drought, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, late winter, late spring, early summer, midsummer, late summer, early fall, mid fall, late fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Yellow
  • Shape or form Upright

Size and Form: 

Indian grass can grow as tall as 8 feet, but 6 feet is more common in cultivation. It is a warm season, clumping grass with an upright habit.

Native geographic location and habitat: 

C-Value: 5. Indian grass is native to most of North America. 

Leaf description: 

The green leaves are up to 2 feet long and 1/4 inch wide. The fall color can vary from yellow to orange.

Flower description: 

Flowering occurs in late summer. The tiny, yellow to bronze-colored flowers occur on moderately dense clusters held above the foliage. The flowers are wind pollinated.

Fruit description: 

The small fruit (caryopsis or grains) form along the clusters that held the flowers.

Plant care:

Full sun and well-drained soils are best for this grass. It can tolerate wet sites as well as sandy soils. It is fairly drought tolerant once it is established. This is a warm season grass, so its most active growth occurs in summer. It will remain standing in winter and can act as winter interest. Since this grass remains attractive through winter, it should not be cut back until early spring, before new growth begins. At that time, it can be cut down to the ground.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

This grass has no common pest problems. Indian grass can reseed itself and may lead to excess unwanted plants.

These plants are cultivars of a species that is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits.

Indian Steel (Sorghastrum nutans ‘Indian Steel’):

This cultivar has blue-green foliage that turns bronze in autumn.

Sioux Blue (Sorghastrum nutans ‘Sioux Blue’):

 A cultivar with blue-gray foliage during the summer, it turns yellow, changing to orange in fall.


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