Indian grass, Sorghastrum nutans, is a North American prairie grass found in the central United States. From the southernmost state of Texas to the easternmost state of Kansas and North Dakota, and the western reaches of Montana to Canada’s provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, this grass can be seen growing freely.
It is considered ornamental grass that grows to heights of three to five feet. The grass is blue-green in the spring and summer and turns golden yellow to light brown in the autumn. The herb has vertical flowering stems that rise upwards of 12 inches. These stems have bright brown flower panicles with yellow stamens. This grass grows heartily in zones 4 to 9 and needs dry to medium wet soil well-drained and exposed to full sun. It tolerates soils from coarse, beautiful, and medium textured clay to sand and acidic to alkaline soils.
Indian grass is ideal for erosion control, protecting areas subjected to rough winds. It is an excellent foraging grass for livestock and deer and good grass for hay production. Because of its height and thick growth, it makes a unique wildlife habitat. Using it as a border grass in flower gardens is a common practice, as is mixing it with wildflowers to create a garden with the look of the natural meadow.
Plant this grass from early May through June when soil temperatures are at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant seeds one-quarter inch deep. Fertilize with moderate levels of phosphorus and potassium to establish the grass.
After it is found, apply nitrogen. Any further application of nutrients should be based on soil test results. For continued vigorous growth, begin grazing when the grass is approximately 12 to 16 inches tall and stop it when the grass is within 6 inches of the ground. Grazing ensures the plant will be able to store much-needed carbohydrates for its future growth.
All its unique traits contribute to making Indian grass is ornamental and foraging grass. While it is native to the Great Plains region of the U.S., you can find it in zones 4 to 9. Its beautiful blue, green color changes to light brown and yellow in the fall. It is the ideal grass for wind erosion control, and it grows in any soil exposed to sunlight and has good drainage.