Sorghastrum nutans

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: Indian grass 
Type: Ornamental grass
Family: Poaceae
Native Range: Eastern and central United States
Zone: 4 to 9
Height: 3.00 to 5.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: September to February
Bloom Description: Light brown with yellow stamens
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Good Dried
Leaf: Good Fall
Attracts: Birds
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Drought, Erosion, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil, Black Walnut, Air Pollution


Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun. Tolerant of a wide range of soils including heavy clays. Does well in poor, dry, infertile soils. Tends to open up and/or flop in moist, rich soils however. May naturalize by self-seeding in optimum growing conditions. Cut back to the ground in late winter to early spring just before the new growth appears.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Sorghastrum nutans, commonly called Indian grass, is a warm season Missouri native perennial grass which typically occurs in prairies, glades and open woods throughout the State. It was one of the dominant grasses of the tallgrass prairie which once covered large parts of the Midwest. Typically grows 3-5' tall (less frequently to 6') and is noted for its upright form and blue-green foliage. It forms upright clumps (to 2-3' tall) of slender, blue-green leaves (to 1/2" wide and 2' long). Foliage turns orange-yellow in fall and usually retains hints of color into the winter. Stiff, vertical flowering stems, topped with narrow, feathery, light brown flower panicles (to 12" long) highlighted with yellow stamens, rise well above the foliage clump in late summer to 5-6' tall. Panicles darken to bronze/chestnut brown in fall as they mature, later fading to gray. Panicles continue to provide some interest well into winter and the seeds are attractive to birds.

Genus name come from Greek and means a poor imitation of sorghum.

Specific epithet means to nod or nodding.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Mass or blend into prairies, meadows, wild or naturalized areas. Vertical accent for borders. Also effective on slopes for erosion control.