Schizachyrium scoparium 'Carousel'
Common Name: little bluestem
Type: Ornamental grass
Family: Poaceae
Zone: 3 to 9
Height: 2.00 to 2.50 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 2.50 feet
Bloom Time: August to February
Bloom Description: Insignificant
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Rain Garden
Flower: Insignificant
Leaf: Good Fall
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Deer, Drought, Erosion, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil, Black Walnut, Air Pollution

Culture

Easily grown in average, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun. Tolerates a wide range of soil conditions. Tolerates clay soils. Performs well in poor soils. Good drought resistance once established. Tolerates high heat and humidity. Cut to the ground in late winter to early spring.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Schizachyrium scoparium, commonly called little bluestem, is native to prairies, fields, clearings, hills, limestone glades, roadsides, waste areas and open woods from Alberta to Quebec south to Arizona and Florida. It was one of the dominant grasses of the vast tallgrass prairie region which once covered rich and fertile soils in many parts of central North America. It typically matures to 2-4’ (less frequently to 5’) tall, and features upright clumps of slender, flat, linear green leaves (to 1/4“ wide), with each leaf having a tinge of blue at the base. Purplish-bronze flowers appear in 3” long racemes on branched stems rising above the foliage in August. Flowers are followed by clusters of fluffy, silvery-white seed heads which are attractive and often persist into winter. Many consider the most outstanding ornamental feature of this grass to be its bronze-orange fall foliage color.

Genus name comes from the Latin schizein meaning to split and achyron meaning chaff.

Specific epithet means broomlike.

Common name is in reference to the lavender-blue color on the stem bases.

'Carousel' was discovered in a garden plot of 200 seedlings that had been grown from open pollinated plants of Schizachyrium scoparium by Donavan Boehm of Boehm’s Garden Center of Rushville, Illinois. It was introduced by the Chicagoland Grows® program. ‘Carousel’ was chosen for its compact and rounded habit and its upright stems that do not lodge in fall and winter. Its foliage is green to blue green with streaks of pink in summer, a mixture of copper, beige, orange red and mahogany in fall and beige in winter. Its flowers are insignificant but the seed heads have showy plumes of white hairs that are ornamental in fall and winter. It will not grow true from seed. ’Carousel’ is shorter than the species growing 2 to 2.5 ft. tall and wide compared to up to 4 ft. tall for the species. United States Plant Patent PP#20,948 awarded April 27, 2010.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Ornamental grass for borders, cottage gardens, wild gardens, wood margins, meadows or prairie-like settings. Group or mass. A good low-maintenance selection for sun-baked areas.