How to Grow Indian Grass

This tall, clumping grass looks great in borders and wild garden areas

Indian Grass in a meadow

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Native to the prairies of North America, Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans) is a tall, bunching, warm-season grass that is also used as feed for livestock.

A popular ornamental grass, it works well as an upright backdrop in garden borders or as a main mass feature when creating a natural meadow or wildlife garden. The grass grows to be up to six-foot when in bloom, and the seedheads add a splash of yellow to orange color from late summer to early fall.

Because the short rhizomes are able to remain standing in winter while dormant, it can continue to add interest to your garden throughout the year. The grass blades add shades of green, grey, and even blue to the landscape.

As a result of its hardiness, clumping formation, strong rooting system, and ability to grow in infertile soils, Indian Grass can work well on slopes to prevent erosion.

Botanical Name Sorghastrum nutans
Common Name Indian Grass, Yellow Indian Grass
Plant Type Perennial bunchgrass
Mature Size Up to 6 foot
Sun Exposure Full Sun
Soil Type Adapts to a variety of soil types
Soil pH Can tolerate a wide range
Bloom Time Late summer to early fall
Flower Color Yellow to orange
Hardiness Zones 4 to 9
Native Area North American prairies

How to Grow Indian Grass

Providing Indian Grass gets plenty of full sun, this could be an easy to grow, relatively low-maintenance addition to your garden.

It adapts well to a variety of soils, and it can cope with dry conditions and even occasional flooding.

This plant reseeds easily and needs minimal attention once established.

Light

The one thing that Indian Grass really does need to thrive is a sunny position. Without full sun for much of the day, it won't perform to its best potential.

Ideally, the grass should be exposed to around six hours of direct sun every day.

Soil

This ornamental grass isn't particular about the type of soil it's planted in. Heavy clay and dry, infertile soils all still usually result in a good performance if the plant has access to the sun.

Its only preference is not to be consistently overly moist, so make sure the soil is well-drained. If this grass gets too much moisture, it can start to flop.

Water

Don't be tempted to water your Indian Grass too frequently. This can result in sprawling stems that aren't as strong.

Once established, this plant is fairly drought tolerant and copes well in dry to medium conditions.

Temperature and Humidity

Warm-season grasses prefer a drier environment and mild temperatures. Optimum temperatures are around 85 to 95 F, but anything over 60 F usually produces decent results.

Fertilizer

Indian Grass doesn't need fertilizer to thrive. In fact, it's best avoided as it can result in the roots becoming weak and overly long.

The only time you might want to consider light fertilization is when you're trying to get very young grass established.

Propagating Indian Grass

Indian Grass does well being grown from seeds. Division is possible, but it isn't recommended. The root system is sprawling, thick and complicated, so it can be tricky to separate successfully.

Pruning

Cutting back Indian Grass to the ground in late winter to early spring can encourage more impressive growth the next year. If you want to appreciate the grass in winter or allow the remaining seedheads to act as feed for birds and other wildlife, wait until early spring before you do this. Just make sure you've done it before any new growth begins.

You shouldn't cut the grass back in its first year of growth.

If your garden is small, you may want to deadhead during the fall to prevent excess self-seeding.

Growing From Seeds

This grass germinates easily from seeds. You can either sow them in the fall, or you can stratify them before sowing them in the spring.

These seeds need soil temperatures above 50 F for germination to be successful, and the soil should be kept moist while establishing.

Indian Grass is a rapid grower and reaches maturity by its second year.