Sporobolus heterolepis

Prairie Dropseed

$3.00 - $225.00

1/8 oz.
1/4 oz.
1/2 oz.
1 oz.
1 lb

3 Pack
Out of Stock
Tray of 50
Out of Stock
Tray of 38
Out of Stock

When planning your garden, it is very easy to get caught up in the beauty and splendor of bold and colorful flowers. However, one must not forget about that massive family of flowering plants, the grasses. A great choice of grass for your native landscape is Prairie Dropseed, also called Northern Dropseed. Native to most of eastern North America, this species really hits its stride in the midwestern prairies. When seed stalks emerge late summer, brush up against it for a cilantro smell. It has a wonderful tussock-forming growth habit and takes on a nice golden hue all throughout the fall and winter.

Being a C4 plant, it excels in hot, dry conditions where it can really soak up the sun. As with many prairie species, it responds well to fire. The seeds of this species, which drop in the fall, are a great food for seed eating birds.  Sadly, in many areas of its range Prairie Dropseed populations are in decline. Adding this species to your landscape is a great way to lend a helping hand in the persistence of Prairie Dropseed well into the future along with bringing a different element to your native landscape.  

Live Plant Shipping Table

Spring Fall Age/Size
Potted 3-Packs May/June September 2.5" wide x 3.5" deep pots
Potted Trays of 38* May/June N/A 2" wide x 5" deep plugs
Potted Trays of 50 May August 2" wide x 5" deep plugs
*This species is a choice in the Mix & Match - Create Your Own Tray!

Sporobolus heterolepis - Prairie Dropseed

Map Key

Present in state
Present but introduced in county
Present and native in county; not rare
Not present in state
Present and native in county; rare
Species extirpated (historic)
State or county listed as noxious
Present in state; exotic

This map shows the native and introduced (adventive) range of this species. Given appropriate habitat and climate, native plants can be grown outside their range.

11 Questions asked on Sporobolus heterolepis

Is this grass plant deer resistant?
Hi Gene, Yes! This is a native plant that we consider to be deer resistant. Of course, always keep in mind that deer resistant doesn't mean deer proof. So depending on the year or the deer, deer resistant plants may occasionally serve as a snack.
What is a good seeding rate for Dropseed for seed production?
We would suggest about 12 lbs/acre, or 5 oz/1000 sq ft on Dropseed.
Is this plant salt tolerant?
This is a good question, but unfortunately one where not a lot of research has been done - yet. We hope to publish a list on our Blog someday soon with a list of natives we are confident would survive on roadsides with moderate to heavy winter salt. My best guess is that it would do OK with light to moderate salt because it is a tough native grass once established. The few plants that we have observed, here in MN, do fine, year after year, on salted roadsides. A short list can be found by typing in 'salt tolerant' in the search bar above. Please let us know what you experience!
Can this be sown in the fall or will birds take most of it?
You can sow this warm-season grass late-fall, but you don't have to. Since it's a Germ Code A, it does not need to overwinter to germinate. You could sow it in the spring and it should germinate when the soil temps warm up.

As far as birds eating fall-sown seed, that is a question we get often and our answer is that most native seed is quite small, and when you sow a diverse seed mix with dozens of species of wildflowers and grasses, all with differing seed sizes (totaling thousands, if not millions of seeds), even the hungriest birds or the largest flocks could not find and eat all the seed that falls to the soil.

If you fall sow just Dropseed, as a monoculture, walk or drive over the seeded area, pushing the seed into the ground just slightly to further protect it from immediate predation.
How does this do in clay soil? Thanks!
While Prairie Dropseed does prefer well draining or rocky soils, it will tolerate a wide range of soil types including heavy clay.
Hi, about how many days to germination for prairie dropseed?
Warm season grasses need soil temperatures that are at least 70°F. We have found with daytime temperatures of 70-85 degrees, Prairie Dropseed will pop out in anywhere from 5 days to 3 weeks. Warmer temperatures will result in faster germination times and direct lighting, like full sun, is beneficial. We wait to start our seed until the end of April, when we have long, hot days.
Is it okay to plant these seeds even in June? Or is there a point at which it is too warm? And if I want the grass in only certain locations, do I scatter the seed or do a more targeted planting? Sorry, total newbie here.
Hi Christina, Yes, Prairie Dropseed is a warm-season grass so you can plant this in June. Warm-season grasses germinate and grow best when the soil temperatures are in the 70s, so they should be just fine even if planted in the warmer summer months. Scattering seed will get you a more random pattern. If you want more control over where plants appear, you’ll need to be more intentional about where you put the seeds. Prairie Dropseed can be finicky from seed, so we suggest 4-5x the seed sowing per area where you want a few mature plants eventually.
How late in the season can you sow these seeds? Could you start them in Zone 7b in late July/early August, for instance? Thanks!
Hi Megan, You may have to supplement some moisture to get those seeds to germinate and help the new seedlings along in the mid-summer heat, but if you can get them going now, that should give you plenty of warm weather for them to get established in zone 7. Starting seeds in late summer is not necessarily a safe bet, however. Sometimes you have to trust your gut and do a little experimenting.
Should I cut back my dropseed in the fall? I live in zone 7 and they'll have full winter exposure. If yes, what height should they be?
Hi Liz. Cutting back plants is dependent on your aesthetic preferences. Leaving the top growth over the winter months provides forage and cover for pollinators. But if you do not enjoy that look, feel free to trim them back to 4-6 inch tall tufts. This is also a good height for spring trimming.
What factors contribute to this species' decline, and what can we do to help it succeed in our gardens?
Hi Laura. Prairie Dropseed is an incredibly hardy plant, but like most things, it needs a place to be. This species is considered rare in many parts of its range because of common agricultural practices or construction projects. Prairie Dropseed is a well-behaved grass and is an easy-to-please option for landscaping. Simply giving it a home on your property will be enough to keep this fabulous plant happy.
Can this be planted under a sugar maple, or does the maple's shallow root system pose a problem? The site does get plenty of afternoon sun.
Hi Jay. Prairie Dropseed is a fabulous species to install around a Sugar Maple! The roots will only be a small hinderance while you are planting; it may be necessary to dig around a little bit to find sites between the tree roots - use a hand trowel for gentle excavation. The grass roots will quickly work their way around the deeper tree roots and develop into a welcome soft landing.


Growing your own plants from seed is the most economical way to add natives to your home. Before you get started, one of the most important things to know about the seeds of wild plants is that many have built-in dormancy mechanisms that prevent the seed from germinating. In nature, this prevents a population of plants from germinating all at once, before killing frosts, or in times of drought. To propagate native plants, a gardener must break this dormancy before seed will grow.

Each species is different, so be sure to check the GERMINATION CODE listed on the website, in the catalog, or on your seed packet. Then, follow the GERMINATION INSTRUCTIONS prior to planting. Some species don't need any pre-treatment to germinate, but some species have dormancy mechanisms that must be broken before the seed will germinate. Some dormancy can be broken in a few minutes, but some species take months or even years.

Seed dormancy can be broken artificially by prolonged refrigeration of damp seed in the process of cold/moist STRATIFICATION. A less complicated approach is to let nature handle the stratifying through a dormant seeding, sowing seeds on the surface of a weed-free site in late fall or winter. Tucked safely beneath the snow, seeds will be conditioned by weathering to make germination possible in subsequent growing seasons.

To learn more, read our BLOG: How to Germinate Native Seeds

Dormant Bare Root Plants

We dig plants when they are dormant from our outdoor beds and ship them April-May and October. Some species go dormant in the summer and we can ship them July/August. We are among the few still employing this production method, which is labor intensive but plant-friendly. They arrive to you dormant, with little to no top-growth (bare-root), packed in peat moss. They should be planted as soon as possible. Unlike greenhouse-grown plants, bare-root plants can be planted during cold weather or anytime the soil is not frozen. A root photo is included with each species to illustrate the optimal depth and orientation. Planting instructions/care are also included with each order.

Download: Installing Your Bare-Root Plants

Potted Plants

3-packs and trays of 32, 38, or 50 plants leave our Midwest greenhouses based on species readiness (being well-rooted for transit) and order date; Spring shipping is typically early May through June, and Fall shipping is mid-August through September. Potted 3-packs and trays of 38 plugs are started from seed in the winter so are typically 3-4 months old when they ship. Trays of 32/50 plugs are usually overwintered so are 1 year old. Plant tray cells are approximately 2” wide x 5” deep in the trays of 38 and 50, and 2.5" wide x 3.5" deep in the 3-packs and trays of 32; ideal for deep-rooted natives. Full-color tags and planting & care instructions are included with each order.

Download: Planting and Care of Potted Plants

*PLEASE NOTE: we are a mail order nursery and have no retail facilities, but you may pick up your order if prior arrangements are made. Pick up orders are subject to **MN Sales Tax.

Shipping & Handling Charges

SEED $100.00 and under: $5.00
Retail SEED orders over $100.00 ship free!

Custom seed mixes or discounted seed sales over $100, add 5% of the total seed cost
(for orders over $1,000 a package signature may be required)

BARE ROOT and POTTED PLANTS $50.00 and under: $9.00
over $50.00: 18% of the total plant cost. (For orders over $1,000 a package signature may be required.)

TOOLS and BOOKS have the shipping fee included in the cost of the product (within the contiguous US).

**We are required to collect state sales tax in certain states. Your state's eligibility and % will be calculated at checkout. MN State Sales Tax of 7.375% is applied for orders picked up at our MN location. Shipping & handling charges are also subject to the sales tax.

Shipping Season

SEED, TOOLS and BOOKS are sent year-round. Most orders ship within 1-3 business days.

BARE ROOT PLANTS are shipped during optimal transplanting time: Spring (April-May) and Fall (Oct). Some ephemeral species are also available for summer shipping. Since our plants are field-grown, Nature sets the schedule each year as to when our season will begin and end. We fill all orders, on a first-come, first-serve basis, to the best of our ability depending on weather conditions beyond our control.

POTTED PLANTS (Trays of 32/38/50 plugs and 3-packs) typically begin shipping early May and go into June; shipping time is heavily dependent on all the species in your order being well-rooted. If winter-spring greenhouse growing conditions are favorable and all species are well-rooted at once, then we ship by order date (first come, first serve). We are a Midwest greenhouse, and due to the challenges of getting all the species in the Mix & Match and Pre-Designed Garden Kits transit-ready at the same time, we typically can't ship before early May. Earlier shipment requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

*We are unable to ship PLANTS (bare root or potted) outside the contiguous US or to CALIFORNIA due to regulations.


We ship using USPS, UPS and Spee Dee. UPS and Spee Dee are often used for expediting plant orders; they will not deliver to Post Office Box numbers, so please also include your street address if ordering plants. We send tracking numbers to your email address so please include it when you order.



Germination Code
Life Cycle
Sun Exposure
Full, Partial
Soil Moisture
Medium-Wet, Medium, Medium-Dry, Dry
2 feet
Bloom Time
August, September, October
Bird Favorite: seeds, insects, fruit, nectar, nesting, perch
Deer Resistant
Highly recommended for home landscaping
USDA Zones
Plant Spacing
Catalog Code