Prairie Dropseed

Sporobolus heterolepis

Family: Poaceae (poh-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Sporobolus (spor-ROB-oh-lus) (Info)
Species: heterolepis (het-er-oh-LEP-is) (Info)


Ornamental Grasses and Bamboo


Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

Flowers are good for drying and preserving

Flowers are fragrant

Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


24-36 in. (60-90 cm)


24-36 in. (60-90 cm)


USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)

USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun



Bloom Color:

Pale Pink

Bloom Time:

Late Summer/Early Fall


Grown for foliage


Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

By dividing the rootball

From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Collect seedhead/pod when flowers fade; allow to dry

Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds

Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:


Denver, Colorado

Longmont, Colorado

Aurora, Illinois

Chicago, Illinois

Hinsdale, Illinois

Peoria, Illinois

Indianapolis, Indiana

Pacific Junction, Iowa

Lincoln, Nebraska

Frenchtown, New Jersey

Farmington, New Mexico

Patchogue, New York

Downingtown, Pennsylvania

Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania

Burlington, Wisconsin

Madison, Wisconsin

Menasha, Wisconsin

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Oct 30, 2015, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

This easy and adaptable grass forms beautiful symmetrical clumps. The effect is very refined, suitable for the formal garden as well as the wild meadow. Foliage texture is very fine---the leaves are threadlike, only 1/16" wide.

Beautiful orange fall foliage. Excellent winter presence. Most attractive when cut back in early spring before new growth begins.

I find the flowers of secondary interest. They are attractive when backlit, but last only a few weeks. Their fragrance is strong and can be detected many yards downwind. They are often said to smell like burnt popcorn. My nose agrees with those who compare the smell to coriander leaves.

Mature clumps are very dense and difficult to divide. Best propagated by seed.


On Jan 27, 2014, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

It is a pretty clump ornamental grass and native prairie or meadow plant. Does well in most any well-drained soil. Makes a good massing material. Easy to dug up and transplant. Nice, soft foliage feels good.


On Feb 19, 2010, braun06 from Peoria Heights, IL (Zone 5b) wrote:

This is my favorite ornamental grass. It is best used in masses where its fine texture can attract the most attention. It is great when contrasted against coarse textured perennials. It is easy and carefree. Here in Illinois it does self seed well, being native, but these plants are slower to establish and easy to pull by hand when caught young enough. In native prairies they are a climax species, establishing themselves later than other quick emerging plants.


On Jul 30, 2009, Corabella from Burlington, WI (Zone 5a) wrote:

This is a gorgeous perennial grass. In zone 5a, I have this in both full sun and part shade. When grown in shade, the habit is more "floppy" yet still beautiful. In late summer, the panicles are very tall, airy and smell like popcorn. A great reliable ornamental grass for the north.


On May 29, 2009, shelly80504 from Longmont, CO (Zone 5a) wrote:

This unattractive short-grass spreads like wildfire. If I'd known I never would have planted it, as I now have to pull it like a weed from every corner of my yard (even out of the rocks).

I HATE it!!!


On Feb 10, 2006, bigcityal from Menasha, WI (Zone 5a) wrote:

I have this plant as Northern Dropseed
It is very well behaved