Blue Grama

Bouteloua gracilis



Blue Grama grass is a warm-season turf grass. It is native to western North America. It can be found in the Great Plains, along with its companion the buffalograss. Blue Grama makes up about 70-90% of the grasses found in the Plains. It has been said to be better adapted to Utah than buffalograss. Blue Grama is a perennial grass, meaning that it lives for over 2 years. "You will need to need to seed about two months before the first frost in the fall at a rate of 3-4 lbs. per 1,000 feet. You can also establish from plugs or plants. Because the grass grows in a clumping fashion, you cannot usually establish a blue grama grass lawn from sod." Its seed is very light and "fluffy". "Mixing the grass seed with sand prior to sowing will help ensure that the seed is evenly distributed. The seed will generally sprout within 7-10 days during warm weather, with even moisture." Blue Grama usually begins to bloom in the summer months, and requires a significant amount of sun to grow and maintain nutrients properly. It generally has a rapid establishment once it has rooted and can be fertilized with nitrogen, but it is not necessary. However, it only goes to be about 12-20 inches, classifying it as a short grass. Blue Grama forms a natural sod, forming a bunch of grass accumulated together. However it is dormant for most of the year. Blue Grama has interesting looking flowers - a yellowish green-grey leaf - as shown in the picture below. The flower is coarse in texture and is in a crescent shape. The flower contains many spikes that vary in length from about one to two inches.



Blue Grama's biggest advantage is that it requires very little maintenance. It is quite durable and survives wide temperature fluctuations well. It also has a very high drought and cold tolerance. It only requires 12 inches of precipitation annually. It also tolerates salt and alkaline moderately well. Blue Grama produces forage that usually lasts into the winter, and is actually very nutritious. Its forage quality is very good; the crude protein is about thirteen percent for early growth and about 7 percent for mature forage. Blue Grama has a fairly good quality as a turf, it has less weed problems during establishment than some other native grasses. Blue Grama can be used to help maintain erosion, because of its dense shallow roots, which hold it firmly in place. It has also been used to revegetate mining plants after they become inactive. Blue Grama can easily be established from seed and also from short rhizomes. The plant grows slowly outward from the parent plant by tillering. The plant also has a low feeding requirement and is very versatile. It is great for lawns in the arid mountainous regions. The seedling fully matures in about 60 to 70 days, which is a very fast growth rate for a plant. Blue Grama has very few pest and disease problems. It is very well suited for fall and winter grazing, and is in fact ranked as a top choice for livestock forage.

220px-Blue_grama_Bouteloua_gracilis_MN_2007.jpg Blue Grama in the summer months.


Blue Grama takes an extremely long time to recover if it is damaged in any way, decades even in some cases. It does not grow well in shade. Blue Grama will not tolerate flooding or very acidic soils. Weed invasion is the biggest pest problem for the Blue Grama. "It can, however, be affected by the following: Damping off (during germination), fungal spot, root rot, rust, and smuts. (Fungal problems are the worst enemy of this grass. These problems are heightened in wet areas. It truly grows best in arid conditions.)" It is very susceptible to use by rodents as well. If it is fertilized or irrigated frequently it is more prone to invasion by weeds. "There are no turf-type blue grama varieties commercially available. Available varieties were developed for range use and revegetation of disturbed areas, but can be used to produce a lawn of low to moderate quality." They are Lovington and Hachita, there are only classified as low to medium quality turf grass though. When it is overgrazed it forms a sod that keeps other, more favorable grasses from growing. Only when the season is particularly wet can native stands produce enough seed to be commercially harvested. Native stands produce seeds of various quality and viability though.

Ideal Atmosphere for Blue Grama

In an ideal situation a Blue Grama plant prefers to be in temperatures ranging from 50-55 degrees. Its ideal planting time is anywhere between March and May and prefers access to full sunlight. The ideal soil for Blue Grama to be planted in has a pH level of 6.6 to 8.4, and about a quarter to a half an inch in depth. However the plant is better adapted to soils that are very deep and have a medium to fine texture. Because the roots of the Blue Grama are so shallow it is easy for them to absorb any rainfall.

Interesting Facts About Blue Grama

  • Blue Grama is considered an endangered species in Illinois.
  • Blue Grama flowers are often used in dry flower arrangements.
  • It is the state grass of Colorado and New Mexico.
  • When in its dormant state, it can tolerate burning.
  • "It is one of the climax species of the shortgrass prairie"
  • Blue Grama seed heads have a very distinctive look.
  • It can be used as part of a wildflower mixture.
  • "Seedlings are vigorous and will dominate stands if buffalograss is included as part of a seed mix"
  • It can be found at elevations of up to 7000 feet
  • "It is commonly planted for naturalizing far roughs of golf courses.
  • "The stature and productivity of the plant decreases as you move to the northern latitudes."
  • It is rated as a choice forage for livestock.


Page created by Heather McCumpsey