Common name: Prairie dropseed
Botanical name: Sporobolus heterolepis
Virtues: Low maintenance and drought tolerant. Compact size. Lends fall and winter interest with its decorative seed heads. Doesn’t spread aggressively, as some other ornamental grasses do. One of several outstanding native ornamental grasses.
Foliage: Very fine, arching leaves, to 20 inches long. They turn from summer green to gold/orange in the fall. Leaves persist in winter but fade in color.
Flower: Pinkish brown branches of flowers appear on 3-foot-tall stems in late summer. They have a unique fragrance that has been compared to coriander.
Habit: Clumping mound 2 to 3 feet tall and wide.
Season: Summer through fall.
Origin: Dry prairies of the Midwest into Texas and Colorado.
Cultivation: Grow in full sun in any well-drained soil. Tolerates drought. A warm-season grass, it doesn’t start actively growing until summer. Although the plant is called dropseed, and its seeds do drop to the ground in the fall, it doesn’t spread quickly on its own. USDA Zones 3–9.
Image courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder