Indiangrass, Sorghastrum nutans
(L.) Nash: Tall, fall-blooming grass
Description: Sorghastrum nutans (L.) Nash, called
Indiangrass and Yellow Indiangrass, is a tall,
upright, perennial, warm-season ornamental grass.
It typically grows to 3-5 feet tall with long bladelike blue-green leaves, with flower spikes up to 6-8
feet tall. The foliage turns yellow-orange in the fall,
fading to brown in the winter. Indiangrass is 2-3
feet wide, with a bunching habit that increases in
width each year. Before European settlement,
Indiangrass was a major species in the Tallgrass
Prairie ecosystem that dominated the central US.
Flowers and Seeds: Indiangrass flowers in the late
summer to early fall with bright yellow flowers in
8-12 inch clusters called panicles. As fall
progresses the panicles become bronze to brown, turning gray by winter. The small seeds feed birds and
other wildlife, and may self-seed in ideal conditions.
Planting sites: Once established, Indiangrass thrives in poor, dry to medium soils in a range of soil pH
and soil types. It prospers in full sun.
Watering Instructions: Water Indiangrass well when planting it. After it is established, it is drought
tolerant except in severe dry spells. Indiangrass will withstand occasional flooding, but will not survive
Comments: Indiangrass is well-suited for naturalizing, erosion control, as a vertical specimen in border
gardens and as a foundation plant. It is attractive in winter and should not be cut back until early spring,
which is its only recommended maintenance for landscaping. Birds and small animals love its seeds.
Indiangrass attracts butterflies and is the larval host for the Pepper-and-Salt Skipper butterfly. It is deerresistant. It can be propagated by root division or by seed collected in the fall. Seed may need a cold
treatment before germination. Consider planting Indiangrass instead of non-native invasive grasses like
fountain grass (Pennisetum species) or Pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana). Companion plants include
those with similar bloom times like Fall Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium), Gulf Muhly,
(Muhlenbergia capillaris), Gayfeather (Liatris mucronata), Gregg's mistflower (Conoclinium greggii)
and Mealy Blue Sage (Salvia farinacea).
Written by Dr. Becca Dickstein