How to Grow Blue Wildrye


A perennial wild grass, blue wildrye grows over 4 feet high. The green, waxy stems are primarily grown in pastures as cattle forage or for restoration after fire. The stems yellow in fall and the seeds fall, leaving behind twisted dry stalks if it is left ungrazed. It grows naturally in the Pacific Northwest, California, Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico. It prefers cool weather with minimal rain, mainly in coastal and subalpine areas. It was one of the first plants to grow on Mount St. Helens after the volcanic eruption in 1980 and provided the bulk of the diet for the wild elk.

Step 1

Plant in nitrogen-rich soil near stream beds or on flood plains. Planting in well-drained soil is acceptable, but the wildrye will not fare quite as well.

Step 2

Weed the planting area thoroughly. Hand weed small areas or use an automatic tiller to turn the weeds under and kill them for larger areas.

Step 3

Sow seeds ¼ inch beneath the soil surface. Sow approximately 15 seeds per square foot, evenly distributed over the area.

Step 4

Apply a nitrogen-based fertilizer at planting. Fertilize with a complete fertilizer at mid-summer the first year.

Step 5

Cover with a ½- to 1-inch layer of fine sawdust. This helps hold the seeds in place, preserves soil moisture and prevents birds from scavenging the seeds. Seeds germinate in approximately 10 days.

Step 6

Keep the soil moist for the first 6 months after planting. Once established, blue wildrye is drought tolerant, and natural rainfall is sufficient.

Tips and Warnings

  • Blue wildrye plant will die in 3 to 4 years. Replanting is necessary.

Things You'll Need

  • Tiller
  • Spade
  • Fertilizer
  • Sawdust


  • University of Washington
  • Native Plants
Keywords: blue wildrye, erosion control planting, grass for burn coverage

About this Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.