Big Bluestem ‘Blackhawks’

Tue. Sep. 1, 2020

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show: Big Bluestem ‘Blackhawks’

I was devouring my new Northern Gardener magazine sitting on my front porch with a cool beverage when I came on an article by Debbie Lonnee, who works in the horticulture industry, about a new cultivar for Big Bluestem.

 Let me tell you, this one is a beauty! Called ‘Blackhawks’, the foliage evolves throughout the growing season.

Big bluestem – Blackhawks photo from Monrovia

Emerging green in the Spring, the long strappy leaves take on purple hues by June. Throughout the summer, they turn from purple to red or bronze. By Autumn, it’s nearly black! Oh my, it is striking! It’s also tall. The leaves grow to 5 ft with the flowers and seed heads above, reaching upwards of 7 ft. The flowers themselves are purplish, three-parted clusters that grow about 4 inches long. It spreads to about 2 ft.

big bluestem – Blackhawks flower – aka turkey foot!
There was ONE left. I just HAD to buy it!

I had gone to my local nursery looking for some Fall plants to change out my containers and there it was… ‘Blackhawks’! There was ONE left. I couldn’t help myself, I had to buy it!!  On the way home I’m thinking, where am I gonna put this beauty? HA, there’s ALWAYS a place for a new plant! Big bluestem is also used as nesting material for birds and mammals. It is long lived and can be used for naturalizing.

What a dramatic backdrop for the perennial garden and good news for those in the North, it’s hardy to zone 3. While not fussy about soil it does prefer at least 6 hours of sunlight. Got poor or dry soils, not a problem. But don’t plant in wet soils. Big bluestem is native to the Upper Midwest.