Blue Grama Grass: Drought-Tolerant Native Turf


In case you’re on the lookout for a garden different that helps wildlife, look no additional than blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis)! It’s usually in comparison with buffalograss and might even be interplanted with buffalograss to create a pure garden of native crops. 

Not like buffalograss, it tends to remain clumpy, particularly if water ranges are low, and it doesn’t unfold as rapidly. As a plant of perennial origin, it does effectively throughout heat seasons, particularly in its native habitat. When left to develop to full maturity, it produces flowers that grasp on the ideas of the blades and resemble eyelashes. 

The flowers of those grass crops produce seeds that may propagate much more blue grama grass. In addition they act as a meals supply for birds and different small animals. Like different grass crops of its sort, blue grama spreads via the backyard by way of underground brief rhizomes, though slowly. 

When grown as decorative grasses, grama crops can add visible curiosity to your panorama by creating distinction amongst the flowers in your backyard, making a natural-looking wildflower meadow. These water-wise, native crops are additionally the larval host plant for skippers, butterflies, and moths. The flower and leaf appeal to grownup species that lay eggs on the leaf blades of the plant. 

Fast Care Information

Blue grama grass
Blue grama grass is a local grass within the western United States. Supply: lostinfog
Frequent Identify Blue grama grass, mosquito grass
Scientific Identify Bouteloua gracilis
Household Poaceae
Peak & Unfold 30-36 inches tall and large
Mild Full solar
Soil Tolerates a wide range of soil sorts
Water Low water, drought resistant
Pests & Illnesses Grasshoppers, rust fungus

All About Blue Grama Grass

Closeup of blue grama grass flowers
Closeup of younger blue grama grass flowers. Supply: AndreyZharkikh

The Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama grass) plant is mostly present in elements of Western Canada and south throughout the Rocky Mountains, Nice Plains, Colorado Springs, and a few Midwest states into Mexico. It’s thought of one of many Huge 4 native grasses in Texas right down to Mexico, and it’s Colorado’s state grass! 

It is usually typically known as mosquito grass as a result of the seed pods have been mentioned to resemble mosquitoes floating above the blades. It’s perennial in origin, which suggests you possibly can add these crops to your panorama or backyard and luxuriate in them for years to return with little or no effort. 

Blue grama grass has slender leaf blades which can be about 6 inches of their totally mature kind and typically curl, with leaf margins that roll inwards. They’re a stunning sight to see on the plains blended with different native crops. Their flower heads kind from flowers that seem on one facet of the stems and look considerably like a single hen’s wing. This one facet is the place the seed is swept throughout the plains for propagation.  

This heat season grass loves full solar. It may survive a wide range of soils, together with sandy soils. When these native crops are utilized in a garden, they will face up to mowing to a peak of three inches and will be saved as low-growing grass crops. In case you want to hold them inexperienced, make certain to water them throughout instances of maximum drought. Blue grama crops will naturally flip brown once they go dormant within the winter. 

Blue Grama Grass Care

Blue grama grass is one in every of many decorative grasses native to the good plains. When grown in its native habitat, it’s low upkeep and drought-resistant. 

Solar and Temperature for These Native Vegetation

Blue grama crops develop finest in full solar, with no less than 6 to eight hours of daylight per day. They do finest in USDA rising zones 5-9. Blue grama’s perennial origin means that it’ll go dormant within the wintertime and are available again with new development within the spring. When planting from seed, it’s finest to attend till the autumn so the seed can chilly stratify over the chilly seasons. This heat-loving native grass requires heat temperatures of spring in an effort to assist germination. 

Probably the most lively interval of the rising season happens when temperatures are between 70-90 levels Fahrenheit. Along with being warmth tolerant, it’s additionally chilly tolerant. Progress will sluggish because the nighttime temperatures start to drop within the fall, and ultimately, within the winter, it can flip tawny, however it can by no means fully die again. Though blue grama grass is native to western Colorado, it does have an elevation restrict on the hardiness of 7500 toes.

Native Grass Water and Humidity

Since blue grama grass loves the complete solar and heat temperatures, do your watering within the morning earlier than the warmth of the day. This manner, the water will be capable to penetrate to the roots earlier than the solar has an opportunity to evaporate the moisture. As your native grasses turn into established, their watering wants will change. 

Of their first yr of development, they need to be watered no less than 2 instances per week through the rising season. Of their second yr, this may be decreased to 1 time per week. Of their third yr, this may be additional decreased to 1 time each 1-2 weeks. Within the wintertime, snowfall ought to present ample moisture, however in significantly dry winters, they are often watered as soon as a month so long as air and soil temperatures are above 40 levels and the soil will not be frozen. 

As soon as your blue grama grass has reached maturity, then they turn into extraordinarily drought resistant and might survive on as little as 7 inches of annual rain. Throughout prolonged dry spells – even within the warmth of summer season –in the event that they aren’t irrigated, they go dormant and should flip brown however will spring again to life on the first signal of moisture. In case you want to hold your grama grass inexperienced, then you could select to water it throughout these intervals. 

Soil

Grama grass flower stalk
Blue grama flowers are on a stalk that rises above the slender grass blades. Supply: Matt Lavin

This bunch grass is understood for tolerating a variety of soil sorts. Blue grama grows naturally in dry prairies and is usually present in rocky or clay soil. It does finest, nonetheless, with well-draining soil. It’s not present in moist, poorly drained soils and will be broken by overwatering or soggy/waterlogged soil circumstances. Because of this, it doesn’t tolerate being planted in areas with a excessive water desk. 

Blue grama grass additionally prefers impartial soil and might’t deal with acidic circumstances. In case you’re planting in a extremely wealthy medium, add ample quantities of sand to assist with drainage. Nice sandy soils are simply advantageous for this grass. 

Fertilizing

One of many advantages of rising blue grama grass is that it’s very low upkeep. It may survive on little or no water, can tolerate all kinds of soil sorts, and doesn’t require any common fertilizer or soil amendments. Though fertilizing isn’t needed, it may be particularly useful in the event you’re utilizing it as a local different and wish to preserve its inexperienced shade. Fertilize with nitrogen annually in June. When beginning blue grama grass from seed, it might profit from the increase of a layer of compost on the planting web site, though this isn’t a should. 

Pruning

To know the pruning necessities for blue grama grass, you need to first perceive its pure development habits. In the course of the lively rising season from mid-Might to October, the blades will likely be mild inexperienced in shade. Throughout late summer season, the seed heads will kind (when grown as a decorative and left unmowed). In the course of the winter, it can go dormant and switch mild brown in shade. It may be left standing so as to add curiosity to your winter panorama. Then in February, it might deal with mowing to a peak of three inches and can then placed on new development within the spring. 

When used as a garden different, it might deal with being frequently mowed to a peak of three inches, or it may be left to develop a bit taller for a extra pure garden look. This native grass can tolerate heavy foot visitors, so it might be advantageous in an space that youngsters and pets frequent. As winter approaches, let your grass acquire some peak to direct vitality towards the basis system. It is going to brown through the winter however will come again to life within the spring. 

Blue Grama Propagation

Like most grasses, the blue grama grass species is especially propagated by seeds. That is very true when utilizing this plant as a garden different which would require you to broadcast seeds throughout a big space. There are native seed corporations that promote seeds of wildflowers and native grasses blended collectively. To plant them, broadcast the seeds over an space within the fall after which cowl them calmly with a advantageous layer of sandy or silty materials to maintain them from blowing away within the wind. Then water them in and water as soon as each two weeks to assist them germinate.  

That is a lot simpler than transplanting bunches as they’re sluggish rising and take their time spreading. Rising from transplants is the best methodology of propagation when utilizing Bouteloua gracilis as a decorative grass. Then you definitely get the advantage of a completely established plant in your panorama a lot sooner. You too can plant plugs of grass blended with species of native wildflowers. 

Troubleshooting Blue Grama Grass

Blue grama flowers
The flowers appear to be little feathers on the tip of grass stems. Supply: lostinfog

As talked about above, blue grama grass is generally pest and illness free! There are, nonetheless, some issues to be looking out for. 

Grama Grass Rising Issues

Most rising issues happen when this plant is overwatered. If the bottom feels spongy, you discover standing water, or in case your grass is abruptly wilting, this could possibly be an indication you’re overwatering. This plant is extremely drought tolerant, and it’s higher to water much less slightly than overwater. It may bounce again and thrive on little or no moisture. Nonetheless, an excessive amount of moisture may cause injury.  

Pests

Grasshopper species have been recognized to chomp on the leaf of blue grama grasses, however usually, their feeding isn’t sufficient to trigger main injury to the plant. Normally, the grasshopper inhabitants is well managed by your neighborhood birds and different small wildlife. 

Illnesses

Probably the most prevalent illness concern with this grass is fungal rust which, as its identify would counsel, is brought on by a fungus. One signal of rust fungus is small reddish-orange spots on the leaves. This fungus prefers heat, moist, and humid environments. Watering solely in excessive drought and solely when the clumps of grass have an opportunity to dry within the coolest a part of the day might help keep away from these points. 

Neem oil or a copper fungicide might help management rust utilized to the foliage might help management rust on the grass. Cautious making use of these in native habitat restoration initiatives and pollinator gardens, as they are often harmful to pollinators.  

Regularly Requested Questions

Bouteloua gracilis
A thick patch of Bouteloua gracilis. Supply: John Rusk

Q: Does blue grama grass unfold?

A: It does unfold by way of underground roots which can be brief rhizomes. Nonetheless, it tends to develop in clumps, particularly in hotter climates. 

Q: What does blue grama grass do?

A: It’s a warm-season grass that can be utilized as an ornamental grass or native different that survives on low ranges of summer season precipitation. When left to develop to its full peak, it can put out a flower within the type of horizontal blossom clusters that resemble eyelashes. 

Q: Do you in the reduction of blue grama grass?

A: When used as a local different, it might survive mowing to a peak of three inches. When used as a decorative grass, it may be left to develop to its full peak after which in the reduction of in February proper earlier than it begins to placed on new development within the spring. 

Q: How lengthy does it take blue grama to develop?

A: This low-growing grass is understood to unfold slowly. As a perennial, it can slowly unfold yr after yr, relying on the rising circumstances. 

Q: What animals eat blue grama grass?

A: This grass is typically used as forage for livestock equivalent to sheep and cattle. It additionally attracts seed-eating birds and is the larval host plant for skippers, butterflies, and moths. 

Q: Is blue grama deer resistant?

A: Sure, it’s deer-resistant, however it’s cherished by elk and bison. 

Q: Is blue grama grass salt tolerant?

A: It’s reasonably tolerant to salt. 

Q: How do you harvest blue grama grass seed?

A: Wait till the seed pods have reached full maturity after the autumn flower has pale. They need to really feel onerous and dry to the contact. The pods ought to break open simply in your hand, revealing the seed. 

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