If you encounter issues loading this site, please refresh the page by using Ctrl + F5 if on Windows or Cmd + Shift + R if on Mac.

Content Detail

Prairie dropseed is a smaller prairie grass, growing only about 3 feet tall. It has a graceful arching habit and flowers late in the season. 

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 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Dry soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Clay soil, Dry sites, Occasional drought
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, late winter, late summer, early fall, mid fall, late fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Fragrant
  • Shape or form Arching, Mounded

Size and Form:

Prairie dropseed is a clumping grass that grows 2 to 3 feet tall and has an arching, mounded shape.

Native geographic location and habitat:

C-Value: 10. Native to much of the United States and Canada.

Leaf description:

The thin (1/8 to 1/16 inch wide) green leaves will grow 2 to 3 feet long, and will arch gracefully forming a fountain-like mound. Fall color is golden, often with orange tones.

Flower description:

Flowering occurs in late summer (usually August and September). The tiny flowers occur on airy, branched structures. Unlike most grasses, prairie dropseed has fragrant flowers. The scent is often compared to buttered popcorn. The flowers are wind pollinated.

Fruit description:

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

Plant care:

Full sun and well-drained soils are best for this species. It is tolerant of heat and drought. 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:

No serious disease or insect problems.

This plant is a cultivar 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.

Dwarf prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis ‘Tara’):

A compact cultivar growing 18 to 24 inches tall, with a more upright habit.


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

Make a gift