Big bluestem grass (Andropogon gerardii) has adapted to much of the country. It was a dominant grass in the tall-grass prairies in the central United States before being over grazed by cattle and plowed under for grain cultivation. Big bluestem grass can reach more than 7 feet tall when the three-pronged seed heads are developing. It is used where prairies are being rehabilitated and for an ornamental grass in the landscape. Seeds can be collected in the fall after the seed heads turn brown. Big bluestem can be divided or dug up and transplanted in the late fall or early winter after a frost kills the top growth.
How To Plant Big Bluestem
Find a well-drained location in the garden that receives full or partial sun to plant big bluestem. Big bluestem will grow in shade but prefers a sunny and dry location.
Dig a hole that is wide enough to accommodate the root system of the big bluestem and deep enough so the big bluestem plant is at the same level it was previously planted.
Plant the big bluestem using the soil removed from the planting hole to refill the new hole, adding water while placing the dirt around the root zone. Adding water while replacing the native soil will prevent any air pockets from forming around the roots. Amendments such as compost added to the planting mix will cause the soil to hold water and possibly kill the big bluestem plant. Water again only if winter and spring are unusually dry.
Prune the top of the big bluestem plant by shearing off all top growth to 8 inches above the ground level. This should remove the majority of the dead top growth. Leave 8 inches of top growth on the plant even if it is dead because the dead top growth is how the big bluestem protects the root zone from harsh winter temperatures.