Virtues: Nice blue-green grassy foliage in summer. Eye-catching pinkish tan flower stalks in late summer. Foliage and seed heads turn pretty shades of pink, orange and brown in fall and remain interesting over the winter. This ornamental grass is fairly compact, just shy of three feet tall and wide. Unlike the straight species and several other selections, it keeps its shape through rainy weather and over the winter, rather than lodging (sprawling open). Small birds like its seed.
Common name: ‘Carousel’ little bluestem
Botanical name: Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Carousel’
Foliage: Long, narrow bluish green blades. These turn shades of pink, orange and brown in fall and fade to a pleasant tan for the winter.
Flowers: Tall stalks of inconspicuous flowers appear in mid- to late summer, rising above the foliage in pinkish tan hues. Fluffy, silvery seedheads remain interesting over the winter.
Habit: Clumping grass to 30 inches tall and wide. Overall shape is slightly mounded.
Season: Summer, fall and winter.
Origin: A cultivar of Schizachyrium scoparium, a grass native to open woods and prairies of the eastern two-thirds of North America. Selected by Don Boehm of Boehm’s Garden Center in Rushville, Illinois.
Cultivation: Grow in full sun. Adaptable to most soils but needs good drainage and does best with lean soil fertility. Tolerates drought once established. Cut the old foliage down to about four inches tall in late winter. This is a warm-season grass that may be slow to start growing in spring. Growth is rapid once the weather warms. Admired for its ability to remain upright even in fall and winter, but be advised that too much shade, wet soils, nutrient-rich soils or additional fertilizing will result in tall, floppy growth. Deer resistant. USDA Zones 3–9.
Related: Ornamental Grasses FAQ
Love ornamental grasses? Read The American Meadow Garden by grass guru John Greenlee.
Learn how to care for ornamental grasses and incorporate them into your garden designs with Grasses and Bamboos—A Practical Guide.
Some of the most rugged ornamental grasses are profiled in Ornamental Grasses for the Western Garden.