I actually can’t believe that I’ve not yet written about Prairie Dropseed, Sporobolus heterolepis, as a plant you should know. I love this native grass for both its ornamental and ecological value in the garden. From its lush fountain of delicate green leaves in the summer to its bronze-gold fall color, from its airy seedhead, to the wonderful fragrance of its flowering and seed, this native grass is a winner!
The leaves of Prairie Dropseed grow to about 18” to 2 feet tall with the seed heads topping at approximately 3’. At maturity, each plant grows to approximately 2 ½ - 3’ wide. Plant at 2’ on center and this native creates a lush groundcover.
Prairie Dropseed prefers full sun and standard garden soils with sufficient moisture although it is also drought tolerant. It typically spreads by seeds rather than roots although it is not aggressive in the garden. In fact this plant can be difficult to grow from seed.
This species is used much more commonly commercially and in gardens than it is found in the wild which Illinois Wildflowers describes as “occasional” in northern Illinois and “uncommon” in the southern ½ of the state. It mixes well with a variety of native and introduced species and will look lovely in any garden!
The seeds are eaten by a wide variety of songbirds. This is one of the natives in my garden that the Juncos seem to prefer in the winter. Its dense tufts of leaves also provide good winter protection.