Prairie Grass Types

"Prairie grass (Bromus willdenowii Kunth) is a tall-growing perennial grass that is suited to well-drained soils," according to Pennsylvania State University. It is resistant to drought and continues to grow into the fall. Prairie grass emerges slower than fescue grass does, but it is of sturdier quality once it is established. There are five major species of native prairie grass.

Big Bluestem

Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) is the most popular of the prairie grasses. It originated on the prairies that spread from the East Coast of the United States to the Rocky Mountain area. Big bluestem flourishes in a vast variety of soils. It produces seeds in late summer, and its green stems turn red with the frost. Big bluestem thrives in full sun from June to September. It grows to a height of 3 to 8 feet.

Little Bluestem

Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) is an ornamental prairie grass that was the most prolific grass in the American midwest. Today, cattle from Kansas and Oklahoma graze on little bluestem to gain weight. The grass grows from 2 to 3 feet tall, and its roots reach 5 to 6 feet into the soil. The grass stems have a blue-green tint and turn bright red in the autumn. The seeds are produced in silver, puffy seed stalks. Little bluestem prairie grass prefers full sunlight, growing from June to September.


Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans) has a soft, wheat-like appearance, and grows from 4 to 7 feet tall. It thrives in a warm climate in almost any type of soil from June to September. Indiangrass is often used for grazing animals but takes up to two years to become well established. It is native to Georgia and Alabama.


Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is a deep green shrub-like prairie grass that grows from 3 to 6 feet in height. It thrives in full sunlight from June to September. Its seeds, which are hard and slippery, turn golden in the autumn. Switchgrass produces thick foliage that protects wildlife in the winter months, and its seeds are a food source for animals.

Side Oats Grama

Sideoats grama prairie grass (Bouteloua curtipendula) is a delicate looking grass, growing from 2 feet to 3 feet high. It produces a purple and orange flower that lends beauty to any landscape. The grass stalk's seeds are small and hang along the grass stems. Sideoats grama grows well in dry soil and full sunlight. This wispy grass has gold-green coloring.

Keywords: about prairie grasses, prairie grass types, prairie grass varieties

About this Author

Karen Curley is located in the Boston area and has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. She writes for eHow, Boston Examiner and The Pet Parade, to name a few. Curley writes educational articles on gardening and flower care, incorporating her years of experience in the field. She received a bachelor's degree from the University of Massachusetts, majoring in literature and art.