The University's first—and currently only—release of an ornamental grass, Blue Heaven®, is a unique form of little bluestem, a native prairie grass known for its tolerance of sites with dry soil and full sun. It is a great plant for low maintenance sustainable landscapes. The selection process began in 1995, with seed from Benton County and 30 other locations statewide. Three years later, superior individual plants were planted for further evaluation, and by 2004 a clear selection was propagated for sale.

Several characteristics make this carefully selected variety attractive through all seasons. It has a taller, more upright form (40-48 inches tall and 25-30 inches wide) than is typical of little bluestem. The colors of Blue Heaven®—dark blue to burgundy foliage during the summer turning purple, violet, and finally red in the fall—are unique on a tall columnar plant. It flowers in August and September, and showy fall color extends into winter.

In 2020, the University released a second ornamental grass selection, Golden Sunset®. Hardy to Zone 3, Golden Sunset® distinguished itself with its upright stature, clean olive-green foliage, and numerous early yellow and golden-bronze flowers. 


The Ornamental Grass Collection at the University of Minnesota's Landscape Arboretum includes more than 200 different ornamental and native grasses and is one of the largest in the United States. Plants are evaluated for winter survival, flowering time, self-seeding, invasiveness, and winter interest. Since the initial planting in 1987, about half of the original grasses, sedges, and rushes have proven hardy at the Arboretum.

U of M Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) Variety

Image Variety Year Features Grass Size
Blue Heaven bluestem. Blue Heaven® 2008 Tall, upright form. Dark blue to burgundy summer foliage shifts to red and purple in fall 25-30" wide by 40-48" tall

U of M Golden Sunset® (Sorghastrum nutans) Variety

Image Variety Year Features Grass Size
Golden Sunset Indiangrass in fall. Golden Sunset® 2020 Tall, upright form that does not fall over.  Features olive-green foliage and a numerous early yellow and golden-bronze flowers 36" wide and 48-72" tall at maturity

Blue Heaven® and Golden Sunset® are trademarks of the University of Minnesota.

Know to Grow

Blue Heaven® little bluestem prefers drier, well-drained sites. This upright, clump-forming grass grows well in sandy soil, but will also tolerate heavier clay soils. Plant Blue Heaven® in full sun. Once established, it is quite drought-tolerant. To maintain, cut back the previous year's growth to ground level in early spring to allow light to penetrate the crown, which will help new foliage grow quickly.