we like big grass and we cannot lie

sporobolus-wrightii-windbreaker-91933-e1496872360674-1300x1392.jpg

giant sacaton
sporobolus wrightii
poaceae

  • to 6' high and wide, 10-12' high for selection 'windbreaker'

  • grass

  • regular to moderate water (low to terrace zone)

  • FULL SUN to light shade

  • HARDY TO -30º F

  • habitat for many animal, nesting material for birds and native bees. 

This is an impressive landscape accent. Giant sacaton (Sporobolus wrightii) forms a gorgeous 5-6-foot mound. Showy, branched feather-like seed heads are produced on slender stalks just above the foliage in late summer Those flower spikes will turn to seed of course, which is something that many wild birds will thank you for. 

Naturally, big sacaton grows mainly on low alluvial flats, bottomlands, and arroyos subject to flooding and wide floodplains, and dry rocky slopes from west Texas to southeastern Arizona at elevations from 2000 to 7000 feet. The selection 'windbreaker' was made in New Mexico for use as a windbreak, and can reach heights up to 10 feet! Flowers will rise to about 12 feet on that selection. 

While many grasses go entirely dormant in the winter, giant sacaton will keep putting out green leaves all year. If one does not give it a good sheer, it will always have some brown and some green in the clump. This isn't unattractive, as these plants have great form and keep putting out new green growth. Plants may be cut back in late winter for fresh regrowth in the spring (this mimics what fire would do in nature). Deep-rooted and very tough, this is an excellent choice for dry, alkaline sites. It is a great alternative to Pampas Grass for large spaces.

Giant sacaton is shade intolerant but looks its best in full sun. It takes moderate to low water once established but looks its best with some irrigation, especially in summer. It can take temperatures as low as -30º F. 

In the early 1900's, the Southwest had extensive stands of big sacaton grassland. Channelization, drought, grazing, and fire suppression have all contributed to the invasion of these grasslands by mesquite and juniper. Today, giant sacaton is estimated to occur naturally in only five percent of its previous habitat. 

These grasses provide seed and habitat for many birds, and leaves are used for nests for birds and native bees alike. In Arizona in the wild, big sacaton provides cover for Botteri’s sparrow (Aimophila botterii) and other birds, collared peccaries, and many other rodents.

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Katherine Gierlach