I live in Eastern Oregon(the dry side). I love my little blue stem but it wants to flop. I have decided this is probably how it grows everywhere. Am I correct? Any suggestions on how to help it do better?
You are not correct on the flop thing. Schizachyrium scoparium and its cultivars grow rounded with always flops, there are a couple of things why your grass is flopping. Over watering or poor drainage can occur in the Pacific Northwest, and that can make the grass lean and weak. Another find is that too much nitrogen and a lower ph can result in droopy stalks. And then there is the unfortunate cause and that is climate. Too much humidity, rain, and short growing seasons can all participate in reducing the plants vigor. My offering, is to eliminate any drainage problems, over-watering, and over-fertilizing. Then, if the grass does improve in a few seasons, then it won't be a climate problem. I grow three versions of Schizachyrium, the straight specie scopairum, cultivar "The Blues", and "Blaze", and never had a problem with flopping if I limit fertilizer, heavy amounts of water, and humidity. Remember, little bluestem used to be a prarie grass and a forage in the early days of the US.....so its needs little attention....like most grasses.
I live on the "wet" side of Oregon and have no issues with the climate and Schiz. which leads me to believe that you're not dealing with a too much rain issue. A-man's suggestions of over-watering/over-fertilizing are worth noting. Full sun location, little water once established, no fert. Should be very upright and have excellent color this time of year.
too much nitrogen definately has an effect, this was learned with a hands on at a local nursery where bigger is not always better, and ended up having to stake the little bluestems that reached a height of 4 ft in a pot but with no strength in the stems. This is one that likes it fairly dry, and very lean soil.
The problem might also be partly genetic, as cultivars are partly selected for non-flop tendencies. But it is true about soil being lean; I have seen little bluestem growing in the wild in both sand, and clay based rich soil, and the difference is quite noticeable. The areas are only a mile from each other, so genetic differences are probably negligable. I have a friend with a method to counteract this tendency in his garden; he uses a floating grid above the plant for the flower stalks to grow through. Then, after the stems have hardened(I can't say when that is),he removes it for the rest of the season, and voila! Nice and straight.
My little bluestem is in it's 2nd yr and it's flopped. I have excellent drainage and I don't add nutrients. We had a very hot humid summer with little rain. I never water. After searching the web a bit, I've decided that my soil is probably too rich. I have a nice loamy soil turning to clay at about 2.5 down.
My two locally native little bluestems performed more admirably this year than in the past five. Two things were different this year, and whether they were they are the reason or contributing factors, I don't know yet. But for what it might be worth, I pass it along. (1)In the early spring, I burnt them to the ground. (2)I have always had a problem with the seedheads filling out, despite the fact that they are not mutual clones. Seeds were always sparse. This year, they were very full.