Indian Grass (Sorghastrum Nutans): A Prairie Perennial Grass

Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) is a perennial prairie grass native to North America. It grows in prairies, pastures, and open woodlands. Read on to learn more about this ornamental grass, also called yellow Indiangrass.
Mia Clark
indian grass

Indian Grass Appearance

Ornamental Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans) is a native, warm-season grass that grows four to five feet high (sometimes even more), with a three-foot spread. The leaf may be up to 3 feet long. This clump forming grass has bluish-green leaves and yellowish seed heads that turn bronze in the fall. Indian Grass blooms in late summer and early fall, producing brown spikelets. The yellow stamens rise well above the foliage clump and change color to golden brown as they mature.

Sorghastrum Nutans Habitat and Distribution

Native to central and eastern North America, Indian grass is found in a number of habitats, including prairies, plains, open fields and roadsides. It is common in the area of the Great Plains and tallgrass prairie. It is also commonly found in gardens and cultivated areas.

Indian Grass Care

Indian grass is one of many ornamental grasses that have become a staple of modern landscaping. Indian grass is easy to grow and is tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions. Here are some tips on how to care for Indian Grass,Light ExposureFirst and foremost, it’s important to know that Indian grass needs full sun for at least six hours per day. If you’re planning on planting it in an area that doesn’t get that much light, consider transplanting it after it has grown for several months – or else get it plenty of artificial light so that it doesn’t wither away.

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Once you’ve got your sun situation covered, Indian grass is very easy to maintain. It’s drought-tolerant and can withstand high temperatures without much fuss, so you don’t need to worry about watering too much. One inch of water weekly is enough for Indian Grass.


Indian grass needs very little fertilizer, if any at all, in the first growing season. If you want to fertilize it, you should do so in the spring around. Use a fertilizer with a high nitrogen content and apply at a rate of 50 pounds per acre. Fertilize sparingly; too much fertilizer will cause excessive growth of leaves at the expense of flowers and seeds.


Pruning Indian grass is a simple process that requires only a few basic tools and some time. The best time to prune your Indian grass is during late winter or early spring. You should wait until the blades are fully developed before trimming them. This will ensure that you have less damage from cuts that are too sharp or made at an angle that causes them to snap off rather than cut cleanly through the blade. Propagating Indian GrassPlant Indian grass in full sun in a location where it will have plenty of room to grow, since it spreads by rhizomes. The soil should be well-drained, loamy, clay and sandy. When planting Indian grass from seed, plant it outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.


You can plant this grass from seed (preferably in spring or summer), or propagate it by division. In either case, Indian Grass needs full sun. It will grow in partial shade, but full sun produces the best results.

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It grows best in dry, sandy and loamy soils with a pH between 4.8 and 8.0, and good drainage. However, it can grow in a variety of soils including clay, as long as they aren’t frequently wet.


Indian Grass can only be grown outdoors in zones 4 through 9 because colder temperatures will kill its roots. If you live in one of those zones, you’ll want to plant your Indian Grass outside about six weeks before the last expected frost of spring. You should also know that this grass can get pretty tall (up to seven feet), so consider that when planting. You don’t want it to block any smaller plants or flowers from getting the sunlight they need.

Indian Grass Use

It is considered by many experts to be one of the five most important grass species in tallgrass prairie restoration. Indian Grass has a long list of uses, including forage for wildlife and livestock, soil stabilization, and erosion control. It is a favorite for landscaping due to its stunning display of golden flowers in late summer to early fall. Its rigid, upright growth habit creates a very distinctive appearance that complements many other ornamental plants.

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