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Sporobolus heterolepis (photo courtesy of Rob Cardillo)
Sporobolus heterolepis (photo courtesy of Rob Cardillo)

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Zones 1-10, 14-17
Full Sun
Regular WaterMinimal Water
Moderate, Minimal

Sporobolus heterolepis

Prairie Dropseed

Ornamental grasses and grasslike plants, Perennials


Graceful, fine-textured, clumping grasses that are as tough as they are good-looking. Deep-rooted and drought-tolerant; excellent for massing in hot, dry areas and effective in meadow gardens, mixed borders, naturalized areas, rock gardens, and even by swimming pools. Plume-like flower heads appear in summer and fall. After they fade, tiny seeds drop to the ground; hence the common name. These plants tolerate a wide range of soil conditions.

Sporobolus heterolepis

Native to the Midwest, High Plains, and much of the eastern U.S. Emerald green, hairlike leaves form a billowing mass to 15 in. tall and 1 1/2 ft. wide. Foliage turns golden to orange in fall, then fades to light bronze in winter. Slender-stemmed, airy panicles of flowers rise to 3 ft. tall, soaring above the foliage in late summer. Blossoms are pink to light brown and smell faintly of buttered popcorn. The seeds are highly nutritious and were ground into flour by the Plains Indians. Self-sows mildly; volunteer seedlings are seldom a problem. Plants tolerate any soil but do best when it’s on the dry side.

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