Caucasian Bluestem (Bladhii)

The Caucasian Bluestem (Bladhii) is generally described as a perennial graminoid. This is not native to the U.S. (United States) and has its most active growth period in the summer . The greatest bloom is usually observed in the mid summer, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Caucasian Bluestem (Bladhii) has a moderate life span relative to most other plant species and a rapid growth rate. At maturity, the typical Caucasian Bluestem (Bladhii) will reach up to 3 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 0 inches.

The Caucasian Bluestem (Bladhii) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by seed. It has a rapid ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have high vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -23°F. has high tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Caucasian bluestem is sometimes used as a critical area cover plant due to its ability to grow on droughty, acid, sterile sites. It should be used in mixtures with native warm season grasses because it is not a particularly valuable wildlife plant. This plant is not reliably hardy north of the PA-NY border. Though used for forage in the southern Midwest, the quality is not high enough to use it in this way in the Northeast.

General Characteristics

Caucasian bluestem has dense blue-green leaves and thin stems with purple tinges at the nodes. It typically grows to 3-4 feet in height. The seed head is a terminal group of spike-like stalks that come from a common point. The most memorable characteristic is the sweet, distinctive odor of the foliage.

Required Growing Conditions

This grass will grow on soils of moderate drainage or better. It will grow well on acid, droughty, and low fertility soils. The best use for this grass is on drastically disturbed sites such as strip mine RAMP sites in PA and South.

Cultivation and Care

Caucasian bluestem should be seeded as the soil warms in the spring. The germination is slow compared to cool season grasses and the two types of grass are almost never planted together. Native grass drills such as the Truax, Great Plains, or Tye are the best units for planting this seed as they have positive feed mechanisms for chaffy seed and double disk furrow openers. If a suitable drill is not available or cannot be used due to terrain, then broadcasting the seed and tracking it in with a bulldozer is also an excellent planting method. Hydroseeding without tracking is simply a waste of time, money, and effort. Mulches are avoided with warm season grass plantings unless absolutely necessary to control erosion--then use 1500 pounds per acre of straw as a maximum rate. No nitrogen fertilizer should be applied during the seeding year. Phosphorus and potassium should be at medium levels, and the pH should be 5.5 or better on forage fields and 5.0 or better on critical areas.

General Upkeep and Control

Once established, there is little management needed for this species. It does not respond as strongly to fire as do our native species.

Cultivars, Improved, and Selected Materials (and area of origin) There are several hybrid cultivars from Oklahoma and Texas, but these are not recommended for used in the Northeast. Caucasian bluestem, sold under that name, is the best of the non-native bluestems.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Rapid
General Type Graminoid
Growth Period Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Moderate
Plant Nativity Introduced to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Mid Summer
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Bunch
Drought Tolerance High
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
Height When Mature 3
Vegetative Spread Slow
Flower Color Yellow
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance Low
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Fall
Seed Spread Rate Rapid
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Seed
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature -23
Soil Depth for Roots 18
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Regrowth Rate Rapid
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 5–8 pH
Precipitation Range 20–20 inches/yr
Planting Density 0–0 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 18
Minimum Frost-Free Days 150 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance Low
CaCO3 Tolerance Medium
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Low
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating Low

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA