little bluestem question

Jim_Nebr(z4 Nebr.)July 21, 2006

We're in the fourth year of our meadow, and couldn't be happier with the results. We have over 70 species so far, more on the way, I hope.

Question on the little bluestem - some of the plants are now nearly 3' tall, 95% of them are green in color, the rest have a definite blue color. Even plants side by side will have the different colors. Why are they different? All the seed came from the same place, Stock Seeds here in Nebraska. I'm not complaining, both colors are beautiful, although I am partial to the blue. Just curious.


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ahughes798(z5 IL)

Hi Jim,

I think it may just be a normal colour variation in the species, because mine are the same way. Some more blue than green, at this stage. April

    Bookmark   July 22, 2006 at 1:31AM
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I got mine from Stock Seed too and they are in their 3rd year and have the same results as you. I kinda like the contrast.

Go Big Red!!

    Bookmark   July 23, 2006 at 5:11PM
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John_Blakeman(z5/6 OH)


If you notice, not only are the plants different colors, but they have different shapes, too. Some will be compact and upright. Others will have spreading stems.

I work extensively with LBS as an Ohio prairie scientist, and what you have described is quite common, in all LBS populations. The reason for this is that you didn't purchase a single genotype, a single specific set of LBS genes. LBS reproduced from seeds has a wide diversity of genes and traits, and you are seeing some of those in your various plants.

Quite normal.

In my LBS plantings, I always like to go back in the second and third years and pull out (transplant) the bluest or reddist or most upright specimens. I've got some really nice clones going in my demosntration plots.

Little bluestem is a stunning, too-little used native grass.

John Blakeman

    Bookmark   July 29, 2006 at 8:09PM
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Jim_Nebr(z4 Nebr.)

To John Blakeman,

When is the best time to transplant the little bluestem? We've got some fantastic specimens I'd like to divide and replant near our house. Thanks!


    Bookmark   July 31, 2006 at 11:40AM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

I love my little bluestem, greenish or blue-ish...they all have spectacular fall colour. They're all species, local genotype, and they still show colour variation whilst growing.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2006 at 12:08AM
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John_Blakeman(z5/6 OH)


The best time to divide and transplant (here in Ohio, at least) is in late March through mid April, before any new growth starts.

But frankly, the plant can be divided and transplanted just about any time, even now in the middle of the growing season, if you are sure to slice off the leaves and take a good chunk of root and set the new division firmly in the soil. Keep it happy with moderate watering. It's just like a bison eating the top of the plant. It's adapted to being nipped off at the base.

Those of us with experience with this species know that it grows slowly when young (first two or three years), or when transplanted. The species grows on root reserves, not just on leaf photosynthesis, so the plant can take a few years getting a massive root system in place to store energy. It's greatly helped with fertilization in the first three years. For small plantings, a general plant fertilizer like Miracle Grow is good. Don't over do it.

Keep us posted on how things work out.

--John Blakeman

    Bookmark   August 6, 2006 at 9:28PM
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Wow John! I have this one grass among the LBS I couldn't figure out this year. At first I didn't know what it was because it was so stiff and upright and silvery blue, but then within the last 2 weeks it started to show the LBS characteristic seed formation! There is no other like it out there. I think I will plan on digging it up and moving it to one of my regular garden beds as an specimen ornamental grass where I have other non-native taller OG's and Echinacea Purpurea!
Here it was earlier this season...

    Bookmark   August 17, 2006 at 11:55AM
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