Bouteloua gracilis, often known as mosquito grass or blue grama, is a tufted, warm-season Missouri native grass with a distinctive arrangement of mosquito larvae-like seed spikes dangling from only one side of the flowering stems.
It’s ideal for rock gardens because it can be planted as a single specimen or in small groups. Naturalized spaces, native plant gardens, unmowed meadows, prairie areas, and other informal portions of the landscape are also excellent possibilities, especially when drought-tolerant species are required.
Let’s take a closer look at this beautiful plant.
Bouteloua gracilis can be found in meadows, plains, open rocky woods, and along railroad lines in the western United States.
Narrow, bluish-gray leaf blades (up to ¼ inch wide) form a tight cluster that grows 12 to 15 inches tall and long. The leaves turn a golden-brown color in the fall, with hints of orange and red. Purplish-tinged flowers bloom on arching stems above the foliage in early to midsummer, frequently boosting the overall height of the clump to 20 feet.
It’s easy to mistake it for Hairy Grama Grass (B. hirsuta), which has a pointed tip that extends beyond the florets. Buffalo grass (B. dactyloides) is a closely related but shorter species that grows to less than 6 inches tall and is found in dry, short-grass plains.
Blue grama is commonly used in turfgrass blends with Buffalo grass.
This grass grows well in USDA Zones 3 to 10.
Blue grama grows well in full sun and average, dry to medium, well-drained soils. It thrives in a wide range of soil conditions, with the exception of those that are poorly draining and damp. This hardy plant can be mowed to 2 inches in height and utilized as a turfgrass.
It can tolerate prolonged droughts well, although this can cause browning and dormancy until moisture is restored.
This plant, if established, can resist controlled fires, harsh cold, and even grazing. It quickly self-seeds.
Cut to the ground late in the winter, before new shoots emerge.
How to Use It in Landscapes
Bouteloua gracilis works well as an accent, groundcover, or mass plant. Plants give showy blossoms, fall color, winter interest, and erosion protection. It is occasionally used as a lawn substitute, either alone or in conjunction with Buchloe dactyloides (buffalo grass).
It pairs wonderfully with any of the below plants.
Whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata) is a 2.5-foot-tall upright perennial with simple, often unbranched stems covered in long, thin, sessile, needle-like leaves (each 2 to 3 inches long) with revolute edges arranged in whorls of 3 to 6 at each node along the stems.
The rare wildflower, Eryngium yuccifolium, often known as Rattlesnake Master, has bristly, spherical flowers. It is named for its spiky basal foliage, which closely resembles the yucca plant. The silvery blue-green tint of both foliage and flowers is remarkable. This plant will stand out in any garden, whether used alone or in groups.
Monarda punctata, sometimes known as Spotted Bee Balm, is one of the most ornate and distinctive plants in North America. This stunning native flower blooms in late summer and may add some of the most unique curb appeal and interest to your property, appearing to be from another planet.
Stiff Goldenrod grows in even the worst soils, from clay to dry sand, and can tolerate a wide range of temperatures. Monarch butterflies love the blooms as they prepare for their autumn trek. Many insects rely on them as a source of nectar. Songbirds use the stems as perches, and the seeds are an important source of food for wildlife in the late season.
This blue prairie grass, sometimes known as Little Bluestem, is a striking accent plant for any garden. This plant is deer-resistant, cold-hardy, and drought-tolerant, as well as easy to grow. It grows in 2- to 4-foot-tall broom-like clusters with slender, blue-tinted leaves. The plant is distinguished by its pinkish stems. The leaf becomes burgundy-red in the fall and is widely regarded as the plant’s most appealing feature. It is hardy to Hardiness Zone 3.