6 Native Grasses that Grow in Wisconsin

Native grasses help the local ecology and add to the aesthetics of your garden. Which ones should you consider growing in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin’s vast grasslands, savannas, and meadows are almost exclusively comprised of native grasses. Native grasses are more drought-resistant than non-native grasses because their root systems extend deep into the soil to find water during the dry summer months.

Deep-rooted native plants and grasses stabilize the soil and significantly boost its capacity to absorb and filter water. In doing so, the soil can remove pollutants before they reach our rivers and streams.

Native grasses can also be beneficial to plants in garden settings by attracting wildlife and insects that will improve their biodiversity. Here are some native grasses that you can include in your garden.

1. Big Bluestem

Big bluestem is a warm-season grass that can grow to a height of 6 – 8 feet when mature. It grows yellow-green and burgundy leaves. Its roughly textured seed heads resemble turkey feet. 

Big bluestem is a great grass to help control erosion, especially when planted in sandy terrain.

bunch of dried grass in the field

2. Sideoats Grama

Sideoats grama is a perennial midgrass with distinctive large leaves. It grows in clumps in ridges, rock formations, and well-drained uplands and thrives in deep and shallow soil.

Sideoats grama foliage turns golden brown in the fall and sometimes seems to have orange and red undertones. 

This grass is unique in that its stems produce small flowers with oat-like seed spikes that dangle from them. 

sideoats grama growing in clumps ridges

3. Virginia Wild Rye

Virginia wild rye is a beautiful, ephemeral perennial grass that actively grows when the soil is cooler in the spring and fall. It can thrive in either full sun or partial shade and favors lush, damp areas in fields and near forests.

This fast-growing grass has bristly flowering heads that resemble wheat or rye. It helps control erosion and stabilizes the soil along rivers, streams, and creeks. 

beautiful virginia wild rye in the forest

4. Indian Grass

Indian grass is an excellent grass choice if you want to add movement and flow to your backyard garden. It’s low-maintenance, which makes it a top choice for natural landscapes.

This prairie tallgrass’ blue-green foliage grows in upright clumps. Its bronze seed heads can add a dramatic flair to fall landscapes. It thrives in full sun and tolerates a wide range of soil conditions, including heavy clay soil.

Indian grass serves as a haven for songbirds and wild game. 

5. Little Bluestem

Little bluestem is a clumping, warm-season perennial grass with silvery-blue foliage. It has a deep root structure that allows it to grow in less favorable locations such as dry upland areas, hillsides, and ridges. 

Once established, this grass is drought-resistant and low-maintenance.

Little bluestem’s foliage provides an excellent background for prairie flowers and adds spectacular color to gardens or landscapes no matter the season.

little bluestem grasses growing in hillsides

6. Fox Sedge

Fox sedge got its name because of its seed heads, which grow in a reddish-brown spray that looks a lot like a fox’s tail. Its foliage grows into a large mound with leaves that can spread out up to 2 feet from its center.

This grass flourishes in partial sun near wetlands, ravines, marshes, and swamps.

Gardeners adore fox sedges’ thick tufts and beautifully unique seed heads, which appear in the summer. 

grasses with growing brown seed heads
Jeffrey Douglas
Jeffrey Douglas own a landscaping company and has been in the business for over 20 years. He loves all things related to lawns or gardens and believes that proper maintenance is the key to preventing problems in the first place.
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