- Blue Eyed Grass Care: Growing Blue Eyed Grass Wildflower In The Garden
- What is Blue Eyed Grass?
- Where to Plant Blue Eyed Grass
- Blue Eyed Grass Care
- Blue-Eyed Grass
- Blue-Eyed Grass
- Planting Partners
- Blue-Eyed Grass Care Must-Knows
- More Varieties of Blue-Eyed Grass
- Plant Blue-Eyed Grass With:
- How to Identify Small Weeds With Tiny Blue Flowers in Lawns
- What is this short plant with little blue flowers?
- Plant Database
- Sisyrinchium californicum
- Sisyrinchium californicum (Ker Gawl.) Aiton
- Synonym(s): Hydastylus borealis, Hydastylus brachypus, Hydastylus californicus, Sisyrinchium boreale
- USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
- Sisyrinchium bellum
- Sisyrinchium – blue-eyed grass really an iris
Blue Eyed Grass Care: Growing Blue Eyed Grass Wildflower In The Garden
Perennial blue eyed grass wildflower is a member of the Iris family, but it is not a grass at all. It is native to North America and forms clumps of slender long foliage topped in spring with small periwinkle flowers. The plant is a bright addition to any location in the garden. Almost any garden soil is where to plant blue eyed grass and it will attract bees and feed wild birds throughout the years.
What is Blue Eyed Grass?
The gardener looking for a substitute for iris or other bulb flowers should explore the blue-eyed grass plant (Sisyrinchium spp.). So what is blue eyed grass and is it a suitable plant for the garden? This plant is clumping and can get 4 to 16 inches tall and equally wide. Blue eyed grass wildflower grows from hardy rhizomes that send out tall, blade-like foliage, much like grass blades and this is where the “grass” in its name derives.
The nearly foot tall foliage bears wiry stems topped with the brilliant blue flowers but may also be white or violet and have a yellow “eye” in the center. This yellow corolla earns the plant its colorful name.
USDA zones 4 to 9 are suitable locations for growing blue eyed grass. Blue eyed grass wildflower is useful in rock gardens, borders, containers and as part of a wildflower meadow.
Growing blue eyed grass is an excellent way to introduce native plant life to your garden. This promotes natural landscaping and helps wild animals with food and nesting materials.
Where to Plant Blue Eyed Grass
Knowing where to plant blue eyed grass is important for its overall health. So when growing blue eyed grass, choose a partially sunny location. While the plant can grow in full sun, it performs best in low light situations.
It is tolerant of any soil pH as long as it drains well. Blue eyed grass will thrive in moist to average garden soil.
The plant is easy to propagate by dividing plantlets away from the parent plant. Break off or cut the rhizomes away from the main plant, including the slender foliage of the young plants that form at the base. Plant them as individual specimens for increased spring beauty.
The clump will get large year by year but you can dig it up and cut it into sections for new plants. Divide the plant in late winter every two to three years, and you will have a scattering of the pretty flowers across the landscape.
In addition to propagation by division, the flowers will produce seed in spring. Seeds spread easily in gardens with adequate moisture.
Blue Eyed Grass Care
Growing blue eyed grass care isn’t difficult. Allow the leaves to remain on the plant after the blooms fade in summer. This gives the foliage time to gather energy to store in the rhizomes for the following season’s bloom. After they turn brown, cut them back to just above the crown.
Mulch around the plants with organic material to provide nutrients and help protect the plants during freezing temperatures. In zones below 4 or where hard freezes last all winter, dig up the plant in fall and pot up in garden soil. Move the plant to a low light location where temperatures are above freezing. When soils are workable, replant in spring and enjoy blue eyed grass wildflowers until summer.
Star-shape blue-purple flowers decorate blue-eyed grass in spring and early summer. A wonderful plant for edging a walkway or the front of a cottage garden border, this compact perennial grows in a slowly spreading clump. Although “grass” is in its name, blue-eyed grass is actually in the iris family. Its sturdy leaves remain green and upright throughout the growing season.
Blue-eyed grass complements a host of perennials. Plant it at the base of clematis as an easy-care groundcover. Partner it with New Zealand flax and enjoy the distinct textures of both plants’ straplike leaves. Blue-eyed grass also pairs well with all types of roses; both plants grow well in rich, well-drained soil.
Keep your ornamental grasses happy with these tips.
Blue-Eyed Grass Care Must-Knows
An easy-to-grow plant, blue-eyed grass thrives in full sun or part shade and moist, well-drained soil. It produces a thick stand of healthy, dark green foliage when planted in soil that is rich in organic matter. Prior to planting, enrich the planting area with well-decomposed compost, mixing it into the soil in the planting hole and the surrounding area.
Plant nursery-grown transplants 18 to 24 inches apart in early spring. Water plants regularly through the first growing season to promote a strong root system. Blanket the soil around plants with a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch to prevent soil moisture loss.
You may want to cut blue-eyed grass back to the ground after blooming has ended to avert unwanted self-seeding. Plants may need to be divided every few years in early spring to maintain vigorous growth. Blue-eyed grass tolerates division and replanting well.
Check out these no-fail ways to landscape with ornamental grasses.
More Varieties of Blue-Eyed Grass
‘Aunt May’ blue-eyed grass
Sisyrinchium striatum is a clump-former with clean gray green iris-like leaves striped with cream. The pale yellow flowers cluster on 20-inch-tall zig-zag stems. Zones 7-8
Common Sisyrinchium angustifolium forms clumps of grassy foot-long leaves. Its winged and branched stems carry small clusters of bright blue flowers, yellow at the throat. Each lasts a single day but there is a succession. Self-seeds freely. Zones 5-8
‘Devon Skies’ blue-eyed grass
This variety of Sisyrinchium bears a profusion of light blue flowers. It has exceptional tolerance for heat and humidity. Zones 5-9
Plant Blue-Eyed Grass With:
Lupine draws the eye skyward with its gorgeously colored and interestingly structured flower spikes. Bicolor Russell hybrids are the most popular type. Their large pea-like flowers come in amazing colors and combinations, clustered in long spikes on sturdy stems.Lupine prefers light, well-drained soil that is slightly acidic, and it does not tolerate heat or humidity well. It performs best in areas with cool summers, especially the Pacific Northwest.
One of the longest bloomers in the garden, hardy geranium bears little flowers for months at a time. It produces jewel-tone, saucer-shape flowers and mounds of handsome, lobed foliage. It needs full sun, but otherwise it is a tough and reliable plant, thriving in a wide assortment of soils. Many of the best are hybrids. Perennial geraniums may form large colonies.
Named for the Greek goddess of the rainbow, iris indeed comes in a rainbow of colors and in many heights. All have the classic, impossibly intricate flowers. The flowers are constructed with three upright “standard” petals and three drooping “fall” petals, which are often different colors. The falls may be “bearded” or not. Some cultivars bloom a second time in late summer. Some species prefer alkaline soil while others prefer acidic soil.Shown above: Immortality iris
Play up the blue hues in the garden by pairing blue-eyed grass with the blue-green foliage of rue.
Count on this sage to bloom through summer, when blue-eyed grass is taking a flower break.
Yarrow’s yellow flowers and silver-gray foliage are a lovely contrast to blue-eyed grass.
How to Identify Small Weeds With Tiny Blue Flowers in Lawns
Your lawn has the potential to become home to small weeds, such as the common blue violet, which shares the space with your grass. Many types of weeds, classified as broadleaf, produce blue flowers in addition to wide foliage. Though the flowers are striking, the weeds are typically unwanted because they steal nutrients from your grass. Understand how to identify the small weeds with tiny blue flowers in your lawn so that you know how to treat them.
Look to see when the tiny blue flowers bloom in the lawn. Small weeds like the field madder appear from January to July, but each asiatic dayflower bloom only appears for one day.
Inspect the small blue blossoms in the lawn to see if they display additional colors or any distinctive traits. The Persian speedwell, for example, has blue petals with darker blue lines and a pale blue to white center.
Check how the tiny blue bloom grows on the little weed. For instance, healall flowers grow in a cluster of three on top of pointy plant structures (bracts) that have purple outlines.
Point your browser to the University of California’s Weed Research & Information Center website to analyze your findings (see Resources). Select your state in the “Search location” menu and choose “Broadleaf” from the drop-down menu on the left. Click the “go to step 2” button and then select “blue-purple” from the “Flower color” field before you click the “search database” button to generate a list of potential matches. Scroll through the page until you identify the small weed with the tiny blue flowers in your lawn.
What is this short plant with little blue flowers?
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Sisyrinchium californicum (Ker Gawl.) Aiton
Synonym(s): Hydastylus borealis, Hydastylus brachypus, Hydastylus californicus, Sisyrinchium boreale
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
Pale-green, iris-like, basal leaves arise from creeping rhizomes which expand the colony year by year. Leaves turn black upon drying. 6-16 in. stems bear clusters of small, star-shaped golden-yellow flowers. Individual flowers last only one day but are produced in great quantities. 1 or few delicate, bright yellow flowers, resembling 6-pointed stars, held above leaves atop a flat stem in 2 broad bracts, generally with 1 flower in bloom at a time; 1 cluster of narrow, sword-shaped leaves near base.
There are only a few yellow-flowered Sisyrinchiums in the West. Two species from Arizona resemble S. californicum, both called Yellow-eyed or Golden-eyed Grass: S. cernuum, found in southeastern Arizona and Mexico, has petal-like segments less than 1/4 of an inch (6 mm) long, with flowers on slender bent stalks; S. longipes, found from northern Arizona to Mexico, has petal-like segments 3/8-1/2 of an inch (8-13 mm) long, with flowers on erect stalks. Elmers Golden-eyed Grass (S. elmeri), which has stems generally less than 1/8 of an inch (2 mm) wide, is found in much of California. Arizona Golden-eyed Grass (S. arizonicum) is a robust plant with branched stems bearing yellow-orange flowers more than one inch (2.5 cm) wide; it grows in the mountains of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico.
From the Image Gallery
No images of this plant
Size Class: 1-3 ft.
Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: May , Jun
USA: CA , OR , WA
Native Distribution: Coastal areas from Monterey Co., CA to Vancouver I., B.C.
Native Habitat: Freshwater marshes; low, moist places
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Wet
Soil Description: Moist to wet soils.
Conditions Comments: Reseeds readily.
Description: Propagate by seed or divisions.
Seed Collection: Not Available
Seed Treatment: No treatment is required.
Commercially Avail: yes
Find Seed or Plants
Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.
National Wetland Indicator Status
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241).Click herefor map of regions.
From the National Organizations Directory
According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden – Santa Barbara, CA
Native Seed Network – Corvallis, OR
USDA: Find Sisyrinchium californicum in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Sisyrinchium californicum in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Sisyrinchium californicum
Record Modified: 2013-12-23
Research By: TWC Staff
The Sisyrinchium (Blue-eyed-Grasses) genus should not to be semantically confused with the similar sounding Genus Sisymbrium .
Not to be semantically confused with Black-Eyed-Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) a yellow flower belonging to the Dandelion & Daisy Family (Asteraceae). Uniquely identifiable characteristics
Distinguishing Feature : as a Blue-eyed-Grass – it’s yellowness!
Easily distinguished from the much taller Pale Yellow-yyed-Grass which has pale yellow flowers which are in lateral cymes (small bunches) up the stem, including a terminal cyme at the top.
More resemblance to both Blue-eyed-Grass (Sisyrinchium bermudiana) and American Blue-eyed-grass (Sisyrinchium montanum) but both of these are blue (rather than bright yellow) and they both have pronounced cuspidate (tapering to a point) tepals (rather than barely perceptibly cuspidate of Yellow-eyed-grass).
No relation to : Grass .
An introduce-naturalised Neophyte, grown in gardens and which escapes, but is not as often found as the Blue-eyed-Grasses. It is non-native rhizomatous perennial grown as a garden plant which sometimes escapes into the wild. It is native to the West Coast of North America.
Blue-eyed Grass, Sisyrinchium bellum is a 1 foot tall perennial with 1 inch blue flowers in Jan.-June. It is widely distributed in California on open, grassy slopes, Redwood forests. Blue Eyed Grass has small, iris-like leaves. It likes full sun and garden water. It also can become very drought tolerant and tolerate full sun everywhere. It grows in sand to clay, coastal bluffs to interior grasslands. In dry full sun in the interior it will go summer deciduous early.
Some of it’s varied associated plants include: Adenostoma fasciculatum; Arctostaphylos glauca; Armeria maritima; Artemisia dracunculus; Artemisia tridentata; Elymus triticoides; Eriogonum fasciculatum; Eriogonum latifolium; Gaultheria shallon; Horkelia cuneata, Muhlenbergia rigens; Oxalis oregona; Rhus integrifolia; Sidalcea, and Solidago confinis; (with probably 100’s of others). In other words it grows just about everywhere in California but the full desert. It has been found in the desert washes, coastal bluffs, and up to 10,000+ft.. There is one spot east of here that gets 8 inches of rainfall each year and blue-eyed grass is doing fine. Cold tolerant to at least 0 as it will go winter dormant in bad years. We planted these in reflected sun in Taft with once per week or so water and they grew to 2 feet tall with 20 or so flowers at a time covering them for months.
In a native garden Blue Eyed Grass can grow most spots but it’s a small perennial so use it amongst rocks, or with other small perennials like Armeria maritima, Penstemon ‘Margarita BOP’,and Zauschneria ‘Bert’s Bluff’, Erigeron ‘Wayne Roderick’ and Horkelia cuneata.
A grouping of Sisyrinchium angustifolium ‘Lucerne’.
Despite it’s common name, blue-eyed grass is not a grass. The genus Sisyrinchium is a large group of annuals and perennials in the iris family (Iridaceae). But many species are low growing with narrow leaves that appear grass-like and many grow in grasslands. All are native to North or South America. Most are not well known and only a few are used as ornamentals. The taxonomy of the group is quite confused, so the number of species varies from 50 to 150, depending on which classification system is used. Some species have many natural variants that were likely mis-named as species – so more research is needed to figure out the true relationships.
Sisyrinchium plants all have clumps of stiff, upright, sword-shaped leaves held in a fan shape – just like most of their relatives in the iris family. However, the individual leaves are usually narrower than that of a typical iris plant, giving a grass-like appearance. They grow from thin rhizomes that gradually spread outward from the clump. Some species are evergreen, while many others — especially in colder areas — die back to the ground in winter. In spring or summer small flowers appear on spikes at or just above the foliage. Individual flowers emerge from a green spathe slightly wider than the supporting branch.
Each star-shaped flower emerges from a green spathe on the flower spike.
The star-shaped flowers with 6 pointed tepals (three petals and three almost identical sepals, although the sepals are typically slightly wider than the petals) typically have a yellow center. The flowers close in the afternoon or evening and open up again in the morning. Although most North American species do have blue flowers as the common name suggests, some species, especially the South American ones, have white, yellow, or purple flowers. S. californicum has the common name California Golden-eyed Grass for its yellow flowers. If pollinated, flowers are followed by small, round, dark brown or black seed capsules filled with tiny black seeds. Birds may eat the seeds.
A single plant of S. angustfolium ‘Lucerne’ in a rock garden.
One of the most common species offered as an ornamental perennial is S. angustifolium, narrowleaf blue-eyed grass. (The common name suggests unusually narrow leaves, but the leaves, which are only up to 3/16″ wide, are actually wider than many other species.) This species includes plants formerly classified as S. bermudianum, S. gramineum and S. graminoides. This native of eastern North America, from Florida through Canada, occurs primarily in damp open woods and along stream banks, but is sometimes found in more open grassy areas and meadows. The deep violet-blue, ½ inch wide flowers with yellow eyes are borne on distinctively flattened or winged, branched stems, held just above the clump of 8-20″ tall foliage. Plants bloom from late spring into early summer. This species is hardy in zones 4-9. The variety ‘Lucerne’, discovered growing in a nursery near Lucerne, Switzerland, produces more and larger flowers than the species over a longer bloom period (well into summer and sometimes until fall) on plants 8-12″ tall. It does not self seed as readily as the species.
Some other species and hybrids found in cultivation that are hardy in the Midwest include:
- S. albidium, white blue-eyed grass, comes from fields, glades and open woods of eastern North America. The white to pale blue flowers with yellow eyes bloom in early to mid-spring on unbranched flower stems, usually with two clusters of flowers on each stem. Plants grow up to 20″ tall and are hardy in zones 3-9.
- S. campestre, prairie blue-eyed grass, is common in the Midwestern prairies. It is native to the central part of North America, from Texas to Manitoba, primarily west of the Mississippi, but also including Wisconsin and Michigan. It is found naturally in open woods, glades, prairies and grassy areas and is hardy in zones 2-9. The white to pale blue flowers appear on unbranched flower stems in mid-spring to mid-summer. A white-flowered form, S. c. albiflorum, is sometimes offered.
S. idahoense is a western species native from Washington to New Mexico with narrow, dark green foliage blooms in summer, with violet-blue flowers. Hardy in zones 4-9, it is found naturally in moist, sandy soils.
- S. montanum, strict blue-eyed grass, is a more northern species that is very similar to S. angustifolium, differing primarily in having unbranched flower stems and slightly wider leaves.It is found throughout much of North America, except the far west and southeast. It can reach 24″ in height and produces 1″ wide blue-violet flowers on unbranched stems.
- S. mucronatum, needletip blue-eyed grass, grows to 16″ tall in height. The narrow leaves are shorter than the very narrow, unbranched stems and the solitary spathesare red-purple. It grows naturally in the eastern part of North America well up into Canada.
Sisyrinchium bellum with California poppy
S. x bellum ‘E. K. Balls’ (or ‘Ball’s Mauve) is a hybrid with 3/4’” mauve flowers. Plants are typically 6-8″ tall and are hardy in zones 4-8.
- ‘Quaint and Queer’ is a hybrid with brown or dull purple flowers with yellow eyes on flattened flower stems rising 9-10″ tall, above the 6″ foliage in late spring. Zones 5-8.
Grow blue-eyed grass in full sun in well-drained soil. Although they will grow in partial shade, flowering will be reduced. Most species tolerate poor soils and will produce lanky growth in rich soils. As a prairie wildflower it would experience seasonal flooding in its natural environment, and although it does best in drier soils, it will bloom best with good
The foliage dies back in winter in cold climates (L) and new shoots emerge in spring (R).
spring and early summer moisture (as long as the soil drains extremely well). Shear after blooming if desired, to improve the appearance of the clump and to prevent self-seeding. Divide every 2-3 years to keep vigorous. Blue-eyed grass has no significant insect or disease problems and is not favored by deer.
Blue-eyed grasses are best used in informal areas, such as cottage gardens, rock gardens and woodland gardens. They naturalize readily, so are well suited to meadows, prairies and native plant areas. Because of their small stature, they work well at the front of borders, in rock gardens or even as an edging along paths. They look nice combined with other native plants such as butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), prairie smoke (Geum triflorum) and blazing star (Liatris spp.)
The species are readily propagated from seed. They can be direct seeded in the fall (to naturally stratify the seed) for spring germination. Or seeds can be moist stratified for 6 weeks in a refrigerator and then held under cool conditions (50-60) to germinate in 1-2 weeks; typically they will not germinate well at room temperature. Small plants can be set out in late spring or summer. Selections and hybrids should be propagated by division in early spring or fall.
– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison
Sisyrinchium – blue-eyed grass really an iris
- Sisyrinchium “Devon Skies” bears especially large, bluish-purple flowers, each with a dark violet ring surrounding its yellow eye. Sisyrinchium “Devon Skies” bears especially large, bluish-purple flowers, each with a dark violet ring surrounding its yellow eye. Photo: Annie’s Annuals And Perennials
Photo: Annie’s Annuals And Perennials Image 1 of / 1
Image 1 of 1 Sisyrinchium “Devon Skies” bears especially large, bluish-purple flowers, each with a dark violet ring surrounding its yellow eye. Sisyrinchium “Devon Skies” bears especially large, bluish-purple flowers, each with a dark violet ring surrounding its yellow eye. Photo: Annie’s Annuals And Perennials Sisyrinchium – blue-eyed grass really an iris 1 / 1 Back to Gallery
Sometimes botany gives you a “Jeopardy” moment about a particular plant’s origins. In the case of sisyrinchium, the category would be “plants that could be a grass or an iris for $200.”
This charming California perennial is better known as blue-eyed grass, so it’s a grass, right? In fact, it’s a rhizomatous member of the iridaceae family. The clumping, sword-shaped leaves are the giveaway, forming fans that range from 12-18 inches tall. They emerge in late winter and are followed by many erect stems of blue, purple, yellow or white cup-shaped flowers. Though the flowers are petite (to 3/4 inch each), they make up for their modest stature with quantity and brilliance of color.
Flowering begins in late spring and continues through the summer, depending on the amount of water available. Sisyrinchium ‘Devon Skies’ bears especially large, bluish-purple flowers, each with a dark violet ring surrounding its yellow eye. Sisyrinchium is also known as star grass because of certain varieties’ star-shaped blooms. Once finished blooming, each blue eye “sheds a tear,” this being a small round capsule filled with tiny black seeds.
In the garden, blue-eyed grass can be planted in sunny flower beds, rock gardens or mixed with other lower-growing wildflowers. It nestles nicely in a container and will make a small focal point situated in a colorful ceramic pot.
We’ve got your “blue-eyes” right here: California is home to a wide variety of blue-eyed-grass species. These include the purplish-blue S. bellum and S. graminoides; the larger purple flowers of S. ‘Devon Skies’; the vivid purples of S. idahoense; the pretty yellows of S. californicum (yellow-eyed grass) and S. elmeri and the pure white of S. idahoense ‘Album.’ There’s even a curious pink species, S. douglasii, which features satiny, nodding pink flowers.
Did you know?
This plant’s genus name refers to another Iridaceae genus, Moraea sisyrinchium, in the way the corm tunics resemble a shaggy coat (in Greek, sisyra). Some believe the name may derive from the Latin word sus (pig) and rhynchos (nose), as evidently pigs were in the habit of grubbing at their roots. And here you thought it was only truffles that pigs were wild about!
Sisyrinchiums are widely distributed in California on open, grassy slopes. They like full sun and garden water to begin with, though they will in time become very drought tolerant. They can establish themselves in sandy or clay soils but will thrive given fertile, loamy soil. Zones 5-8.
Pests & diseases
Very little bothers this tough little deciduous perennial.
Find 4-inch pots of sisyrinchium species at Cal Flora Nursery (calfloranursery.com), Annie’s Annuals & Perennials (anniesannuals.com) and at your local nursery beginning in the spring.