How To Grow Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) In Your Garden

Known for its hardiness and versatile beauty, Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie Dropseed) is a perennial grass that grows to around three feet (90 cm) in height.

Its arching, narrow, mid-green foliage takes on orange and yellow tones in autumn, eventually fading to a pale brown.

Sporobolus Heterolepis grass
Sporobolus Heterolepis photograph by Joshua Mayer; CC.

As summer wanes into early autumn, Sporobolus heterolepis adorns itself with tiny, aromatic blooms, boasting a pinkish-brown hue and appearing in airy sprays.

Sporobolus, a large genus in the grass family, is native to savannah or prairie locations. This robust grass offers an attractive display of small flower heads which give way to seeds as the season progresses.

Despite the seasonal changes, the seed heads typically persist throughout winter, enhancing the garden's aesthetics even in the colder months.

The grass stems can stretch to 20 inches (60 cm) above its arching leaves. During the summer, the foliage is a bright, vivacious green, transitioning to hues of orange and yellow in autumn, and ultimately browning in winter.

Prairie Dropseed has become a staple in many nurseries, due to its resilience and aesthetic appeal.

The cultivars of this perennial grass bring their own unique charm to gardens: 'Tara' features vase-shaped foliage and has a compact, uniform growth pattern, reaching heights of 18 to 24 inches (45 to 60 cm). The 'Morning Mist' cultivar boasts reddish flower stems and an upright appearance, growing to around two feet in height (60 cm).

Prairie dropseed
Prairie dropseed image by Andrey Zharkikh; CC.

How to Grow Sporobolus Heterolepis

Growing Sporobolus heterolepis is a fairly straightforward process. This perennial grass thrives in sunny locations, requiring a minimum of six to eight hours of sunlight daily for optimal growth.

Although it can tolerate some shade, the intensity of its blooms is likely to be subdued in such conditions.

Prairie dropseed is quite versatile when it comes to soil types. As long as the soil is well-drained, it can grow in various pH conditions.

True to its prairie roots, this grass is most comfortable in rocky, dry soils akin to its native habitat in the Great Plains, where the soil is somewhat alkaline.

Watering and Temperature Tolerance

Boasting excellent drought tolerance, prairie dropseed flourishes in regions with regular rainfall during the growing season.

If seasonal rains are sufficient, additional watering isn't typically necessary. However, in areas with extended periods of drought during summer, a weekly watering routine will help it withstand the intense heat.

Overwatering should be avoided, as it can lead to 'wet feet,' potentially causing root rot or disease.

This perennial grass is adept at adapting to various temperature ranges, including hot summers and cold winters.

Care: Humidity, Soil Conditions, and Pruning

Humidity does not deter the growth of prairie dropseed. Even in poor soil conditions, it manages to thrive without needing supplemental fertilizer applications during the growing season.

No specific pruning is required for this grass during the growing season. However, a late winter or early spring trim can stimulate fresh growth, keeping your plant in top form.

With its striking aesthetics and easy-care requirements, Sporobolus heterolepis is a valuable addition to any garden, capable of bringing a prairie-like charm right to your backyard.

Quick Sporobolus heterolepis Growing and Care Guide

Scientific Name: Sporobolus heterolepis

Common Name(s): Prairie Dropseed

Growing Zone (USA / UK Hardiness): USDA Zones: 3-8 RHS Hardiness Rating: H5 (hardy to -15°C)

Best Used For / Garden Location: Meadow gardens, native plant gardens, borders, and as an accent plant.

Plant Details

Life Cycle / Plant Type: Perennial grass

Plant Height: 2-3 feet (60-90 centimeters)

Plant Spread: 2-3 feet (60-90 centimeters)

Blooms: Late summer

Flower Details: Small, fragrant, pinkish-brown flowers

Leaf Foliage: Narrow, arching, green leaves turning golden in autumn

Fruit: Small, tan seeds

Growing Conditions and Location

Best Light Conditions: Full sun to light shade

Suitable Soil Types: Well-drained, sandy or rocky soil

Sowing / planting: Sow seeds in spring or autumn.

Germination time: 2-3 weeks at 70°F (21°C)

Propagation: By seed or division in spring.

Plant Care: Drought-tolerant; water sparingly. Cut back in late winter.

Growing in pots and containers: Suitable for large containers with good drainage.

Growing as a House plant: Not suitable for houseplants.

Further Information

Miscellaneous: Attractive to birds. Drought, deer, and rabbit resistant.

Pests and diseases: Generally pest and disease-free.

Common Cultivars / Varieties: No specific cultivars.

Family: Poaceae, the Grass family.

Native: North America.

References and Further Reading: Wisconsin Horticulture; University of Minnesota Libraries; University of Wisconsin Extension – Prairie Dropseed

Common Questions

Does Sporobolus Heterolepis make a good garden or landscaping plant?

Sporobolus Heterolepis makes a great garden or landscaping plant. Its graceful, arching form, and attractive seed heads provide year-round interest.

Is Prairie Dropseed a fragrant plant?

Yes, Prairie Dropseed is fragrant. When in bloom, the plant produces a distinctive, sweet, popcorn-like scent.

What is the perfect location to grow Sporobolus Heterolepis?

It thrives in full sun locations with well-drained soil. It's highly drought-tolerant once established, making it an excellent choice for xeriscaping or naturalized plantings.

Is Sporobolus Heterolepis invasive in the USA, if so in which states?

Sporobolus Heterolepis is not considered invasive in the USA. Indeed, it's native to many parts of North America, and is generally a slow spreader.

How do I remove Sporobolus Heterolepis from my garden?

To remove Sporobolus Heterolepis, dig up the entire plant, including its roots, and dispose of it well away to prevent it from reestablishing.


Prairie Dropseed is a native grass species (to the USA) known for fine texture and attractive seed heads. Plant in well-drained soil in full sun. Water regularly until established, then provide occasional watering.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this guide on how to grow Sporobolus heterolepis. You may also enjoy the following grass growing guides: How to grow Fountain Grass, Panicum, Arundo donax and Briza plants in the garden.

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