Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 1307 Sporobolus heterolepsis

Common Names: Prairie dropseed,northern dropseed Family: Poaceae (grass Family)
Image Gallery

praire dropseed grass
Praire dropseed grass in early autumn


Prairie dropseed is clump forming perennial grass whose leaves and flowers have a mild fragrance. The bright green leaves are flat and narrow, just a sixteenth of a inch (2 mm) wide. They average 2-3 ft (60-90 cm) long, and turn reddish orange in fall. The inflorescence is an open, breezy panicle 5-15 in (13-38 cm) tall, that is held on 12-30 in (30-75 cm) culms conspicuously above the foliage. The tiny flowers in the cluster are pinkish white. ‘Wisconsin’ is a cultivar selected by growers in Europe for its cold hardiness and reliable blooming.


Sporobolus heterolepsis occurs naturally in open grasslands and prairies throughout much of the North American Midwest. It was a major component of the North American short grass prairie. Prairie dropseed occurs sporadically in scattered locations in eastern North America, but is not known from the mountains, the Southeast or the Far West.


Light: Full sun is best for this grass of the wide open prairie, but it can be grown in partial shade. Moisture: Prairie dropseed has deep roots and is extremely tolerant of dry soils and drought. It can be grown on most soils, including rocky and clayey. Of course, it will grow faster in fertile soil with adequate watering. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 8 . Some authorities list hardiness in zones 3-9. Propagation: Propagation is usually by seed, but it can take a few years to reach significant size. Large clumps can be divided for quicker results.

praire dropseed grass
Praire dropseed grass is a favorite item for meadow gardens, borders, ground cover as well as rain gardens and rock gardens.


An outstanding ornamental grass, prairie dropseed is long lived and slow growing. It may take a few years to reach a significant size, but prairie dropseed just keeps getting bigger year after year with little need for attention from the gardener. The airy inflorescence of prairie dropseed is like a pink cloud in the garden. It is especially attractive when backlit. In autumn, the foliage turns a handsome orange-red, and by winter it has faded to more of a copper color. Use prairie dropseed in the mixed border, in the meadow garden, or as a ground cover on poor, dry soils. Prairie dropseed performs well in the rain garden. It’s a natural in the rock garden and makes a good addition to a mixed foundation planting. The inflorescence is very effective in dried floral arrangements. Birds eat the seeds.

Unusual among grasses, prairie dropseed foliage and flowers are fragrant. In mass, the delicate sweet fragrance can be detected from a considerable distance across the garden. The perfume has been described as reminiscent of cilantro, melted wax, or burnt buttered popcorn.

The deep rooted prairie dropseed is tolerant of poor, dry soils and is used for erosion control and restoration of denuded lands.


Prairie dropseed is considered by many to be the showiest of the prairie grasses, and is one of the most popular ornamental grasses in cultivation today.

Steve Christman 4/18/18

Master Plant List

Click here to find plants in our Encyclopedia using the Master Plant List grid. Use this widget to search, sort and filter Floridata's plant database to easily locate Plant Profile pages. Use the dropdown menus to filter the grid to display items matching the selected Plant Type and Feature tags.

Plant Type Tags

tree icon
shrub icon
perennial plant icon
aquatic plant icon
cactus and succulents icon
grass icon
vine icon

Feature Tags

Attracts Birds
Attracts butterflies
Attracts Hummingbirds
Edible Plants
Cutting and Arranging
for pots and containers
drought tolerant plants
grows in wet soils
ornamental fruits
fall color
foliage plants
easy to grow plants
fast growing

Site Search

Use Google to search all of the pages on Floridata including the Plant Profile pages

Sporobolus species profiled on Floridata:

Sporobolus heterolepsis

( Prairie dropseed,northern dropseed )

More Floridata:

Copyright 2015 Floridata.com LLC