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Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans)

Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) was named South Carolina’s state grass in 2001.

Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) was named South Carolina’s state grass in 2001.
Barbara H. Smith, ©2019 HGIC, Clemson University

Did you know that South Carolina has an official state grass? Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) was named the state grass in 2001. This native, warm-season, perennial grass originally grew in the natural prairies found in South Carolina four centuries ago. It was an important food source for buffalo and elk that roamed our area during that time. Years of farming and cultivation have destroyed these natural prairie habitats.

Indian grass grows 5 to 8 feet tall with wide bluish-green leaves. In the fall, the foliage turns golden tan, and the flowers and seed heads are dark golden brown. It grows best in full sun and easily adapts to a wide range of soils. Another advantage of this beautiful grass is that it is relatively drought and salt tolerant. It’s easily planted by seed or transplants in the spring when the soil temperatures are above 50° F. It takes a year for the seedlings to become well-established and up to three years for a stand to completely mature. Mowing or cutting back the grass in late winter or early spring will encourage new growth.

Indian grass is considered an important native habitat species that provides pollen for bees and other pollinating insects, along with seeds and nesting sites for many different types of songbirds and game birds. Deer use the tall grass for cover.

There are a number of named cultivars of Indian grass available on the market, such as ‘Sioux Blue’, ‘Bluebird’, and ‘Indian Steel’. These newer cultivars have been developed to mature at 3 to 5 feet tall and are excellent choices to plant in your landscape borders.

For more information on planting native ornamental grasses, please see HGIC 1178, Ornamental Grasses and Grass-Like Plants.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at or 1-888-656-9988.

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