The Perennial Plant of the Year® for 2022 is a lovely native grass, little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium). The Perennial Plant Association designates a plant of the year annually. They choose perennials that are “suitable for a wide range of growing climates, require low maintenance, have multiple-season interest, and are relatively pest/disease-free.”
Little bluestem certainly lives up to this designation. It is an attractive bunchgrass that transforms from blue-green in the summer to shades of coppery-red in the fall and winter. This prairie plant works well in combination with flowering perennials and other ornamental grasses. It prefers well-drained soils with low fertility and full sun. Deer tolerance is another great plus.
Like many native grasses, little bluestem is a good choice for supporting insects and birds. Several skipper butterfly species utilize little bluestem as a larval host, and it provides nesting resources for native bees. Birds and small mammals consume the seeds. Speaking of seeds, the fuzzy, white seed heads of little bluestem are attractive in fall, but they can sometimes self-seed in the landscape, so keep that in mind in terms of garden maintenance.
For the home garden, the native, wild type of little bluestem can be grown from seed. However, cultivars are considered more attractive since they have been selected for fuller, more compact plants and more vibrant colors.
Ornamental grasses are appropriate for almost any landscape. They bring drama and texture and provide just the right finishing touch. For more information, refer to HGIC 1178, Ornamental Grasses and Grass-like Plants.