How to Grow Plains Bristlegrass


Plains bristlegrass makes up a large portion of the cattle forage available in a portion of the United States--Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona--and the northern portion of Mexico. This tall perennial grows best in dry areas where water collects in rainy seasons, such as creek paths and gullies. It is especially prolific in the Rio Grande Plain. A clump grass that grows to 3 feet tall, plains bristlegrass is the common name given to three species of grasses found in the region: Setaria leucopila (streambed bristlegrass) and Setaria texana (Texas bristlegrass) and Setaria vulpiseta (plains bristlegrass).

Growing Plains Bristlegrass

Step 1

Till your growing space. Bristlegrass will only grow in dry, hot desert sections of zones 4-9 in sandy or sandy loam soil. Choose locations that are saturated during wet seasons for best results. Fertilizers and soil additives are not needed, but if you want to use them, thoroughly mix them into the ground before seeding.

Step 2

Plant 3-6 pounds of seed per acre to ensure propagation. Seed 1/2 to 1 inch deep in early spring in more southern regions and in late May to June in more northern plains areas. The USDA suggests planting while temperatures are steady between 50-70 degrees, usually about three weeks after the final frost.

Step 3

Irrigate fields, as needed, to keep the ground moist until seedlings germinate.

Step 4

Protect new seedlings, if growing bristlegrass for large animal grazing, by fencing off the area until seedlings have matured and are well-rooted. Allowing animals to free-range graze will kill bristlegrass. Control field growth by dividing into smaller pastures and allowing some bristlegrass to mature and recover while the animals graze in others sections to avoid over-grazing. Bristlegrass is a fast grower and will produce two seed crops in a good rain season if the area is not used for grazing.

Tips and Warnings

  • Err on the side of caution when mixing seeds for pasture. Bristlegrass cannot compete with taller grasses and will not grow if underpopulated. Birds love bristlegrass seeds.

Things You'll Need

  • bristlegrass seed


  • NRCS Bristlegrass Fact Sheet
  • The Production of Grass Seeds

Who Can Help

  • Plains Bristlegrass
Keywords: plains bristlegrass, hay grass, grazing feed grass

About this Author

Bobbi Keffer attended Kent State University to study education but soon found her true love to be in the garden. She prides herself on her frugal skills reusing, recycling and reinventing her whimsical style in her home and garden.