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Aristida purpurea (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)
Aristida purpurea (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)

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Zones 3B, 4-24
Full Sun
Minimal Water

Aristida purpurea

Purple Three-Awn
Poaceae (Gramineae)
Ornamental grasses and grasslike plants

Native to the western two-thirds of the U.S. and Canada and to northern Mexico. This warm-season bunchgrass grows to 2–2 1/2 ft. tall and wide, with fine-textured, green to blue-green leaves and purplish flower stalks. Silky, nodding, purplish flowers are produced over a long period in summer and deepen in color as the seed develops.

Mature flowers have threadlike awns that reflect light beautifully in late summer and fall. Attractive even in winter, when plant bleaches to a light straw color. Wonderful flowering accent among boulders or in a cactus garden.

Grows best in sandy or gravelly soils but will take most soils if drainage is good. Tolerates extreme heat. Controls erosion on slopes. Cut back to crown in late winter for fresh spring growth. Plants will reseed but usually not too aggressively; to control spread, remove flowerstalks before seeds ripen. Seeds can be a nuisance, as they cling to clothing and pets.

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