Giant sacaton: a grass for texture and beauty

Sporobolus wrightii Giant Sacaton Plant Select

Giant sacaton (Sporobolus wrightii) is a wonderful xeric, southwestern native grass. The golden seed heads on this grass can easily reach six feet tall, which makes it a great replacement for other non-native, water loving grasses like maiden grass (Miscanthus).

This is a big beautiful plant that can ultimately reach five feet wide, and will add impressive structure to you garden. It turns a lovely golden color in the winter months. The inflorescence can be cut and brought inside for fresh and dried arrangements, a nice addition for your fall and winter decorating.

Giant sacaton (Sporobolus wrightii) is very drought tolerant but would appreciate a couple of deep waterings through the driest months. To keep it looking great, cut it to the ground in early spring to remove last years’ dead leaves. Giant sacaton (Sporobolus wrightii) will look right at home with other Plant Select® selections like SONORAN SUNSET® hyssop (Agastache cana ‘Sinning’) or SUNSET® hyssop (Agastache rupestris) or even last years selections of Salvia greggii, Wild Thing sage and Furman’s Red sage.

View the plant profile here or watch the video here.

Giant Sacaton (Sporobolus wrightii)


Height: 5-7′
Width: 3-5′
Blooms: Late summer to fall
Sun: Full sun to partial shade
Soil Moisture: Moderate to xeric
Hardiness: USDA zones 5-8
Culture: Garden loam, clay or sandy soil

Thanks to Shalene Hiller, City of Westminster, for writing this piece.

31 responses to “Giant sacaton: a grass for texture and beauty”

  1. Barb says:

    Question: Will it need to be thinned out in order to keep it from getting wider and wider like Pampus grass? I don’t mind cutting it back every spring but am not able to dig it up to divide or keep it from spreading. Also, will the seeds blow in the wind and reseed in other areas. It is beautiful but I’m nervous about growing it.

    • Pat Hayward says:

      Over many, many years the center may die out a bit and it will continue to spread slowly – are you giving it supplemental water? It should be able to thrive on natural precipitation and that should keep it in check if you’re in the dry west. It is a large plant, however, so you won’t be able to keep it “small.” We haven’t seen a lot of re-seeding but if you are, best to pull the seedlings sooner rather than later when they’re big if they’re in places you don’t want. This is a native plant of the southwestern US so concern of “invasiveness” is somewhat unwarranted.

  2. Earl says:

    Everyone seems to state this is Southwestern plant, but the University of Nebraska has it listed as recommended ornamental for Nebraska. Can you provide any insight as to what is going on?

    Thanks! Earl

    • Pat Hayward says:

      Just because it’s not FROM Nebraska doesn’t mean it doesn’t work well there, especially in the drier parts. It’s actually native to New Mexico and one of the best large ornamental grasses for Colorado! Hope that helps.

  3. Mark Vandigo says:

    I was able to collect giant sacaton seed in metro Denver this month (September, 2016). My intent is to grow it on the Colorado prairie near the Kansas border. I will be trying to grow some in pots to transplant, but also will try to scatter some seed hoping for some level of germination. My questions are in regard to treatment of the seed. and timing of my plantings. Should I refrigerate my seed, freeze it , or store it in cool, dry location until spring? Should I scatter some outside this fall to overwinter outdoors, hoping for spring germination on mother natures schedule? Would it be better to plant sometime next spring? Any guidance you can offer will be appreciated. Thank you. Mark Vandigo

    • Pat Hayward says:

      I found this on the California Native Plant Society website: For propagating by seed: Soak in water 24 hrs. (72 hrs. okay); germinate at high diurnal fluctuation, room temperature ( 71° to 79.7°) and 91.4°F. Sow seeds wet. I’ll check with our growers to see if they have any other tips.

      My understanding is that the seed needs to be lightly covered so be sure that cover doesn’t blow off during the winter. Because of unpredictable moisture, winds and animals, you might be more successful with a spring sowing. And as you said, just keep the seed cool and dry – no temperature stratification needed that I know of, but fridge or cooler is a good idea for storage.

      Are you sure the seed was ripe? Seems a bit early for collecting, but good luck!

  4. Anna Giovinetto says:

    How quickly does it grow under good conditions? I have a scrawny #3 size that I’m going to plant in a place where it will have room to grow, but how long will I be looking at a “hole” in the landscape?

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      If there is lots of heat in that spot and supplemental water, but not over watered, it should fill that spot in 2-3 years. Lots of sun and heat are the key. Great grass that is really underutilized.

  5. tim says:

    i am thinking about getting this grass but am not sure from what ive read on the internet how long those nice seedheads last for.
    do you know if the flower/seed heads last all winter sand in to spring like miscanthus and panicums do or do they break up and fall apart in the autumn?

  6. Arthur Smith says:

    I live in coastal Louisiana, subject to occasional flooding by brackish water from Lake Pontchartrain. Sometimes the flood water takes several days to recede. In addition, I have clay soil. On the plus side, I get abundant full sun year round. Do you think this grass would work? Can you recommend a substitute with similar characteristics? Thank you.

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      It there is only occasion flooding, this grass should live through it. Hopefully the flooding only occurs spring-fall.

  7. Bridget says:

    I’m considering this grass for the 300sf patch in between two driveways. It gets really hot there because of direct sun and nearby concrete. Will it do ok? Also, do I plant in spring or fall?

  8. Robert Helmick says:

    Will the giant sacaton work well in large patio containers?

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      Great idea! If the containers are large, close to a building, or in a protected area, they probably will survive the winter. Being a zone 5 plant, roots above ground are the risk and should be protected with bagged leaves or other objects that have insulation value. Good luck!

  9. Tori says:

    I’m waiting to see if my giant sacatom made it through winter. I’m in zone 5/6, it’s warming up nicely with temperatures in 60s/70s. I’ve seen signs of life on 1/4 of my grasses. How long should i wait before declaring them dead?

  10. Lynn Mitzlaff says:

    In this section, it says to cut the sacaton to the ground. In the plant profile, the commentary says to cut it to one to two feet. Which should it be?

    • Ross Shrigley-Plant Select says:

      On a large plant, prune it back to about 1 foot. You’ll find that it can only be cut down to about that far. Two feet seems a bit high. That probably happens because it’s easier to cut and clean up, but then the plant is left growing through a lot of dormant grass to become green. If you just planted a #1 gallon grass, you can prune that back fairly low to the ground. Enjoy!

  11. Katie says:

    Hello – I had a couple of new 5 gallon giant sacaton’s in fall 2021. Unfortunately a landscaper accidentally removed it in summer of 2022. I’ve called and visited dozens of garden centers on the front range trying to find a replacement and haven’t had any luck. Is there a reason why giant sacaton grasses are no longer available? Or can anyone advise where to buy one? Ideally looking for 5 gallon or larger. Thank you!

  12. Gayle M Close says:

    Hey there,
    We have a bare spot since we rerouted our drip irrigation and I would like to plant something large there that tolerates sun and heat.
    Do I need to amend the hard Colorado soil and how often should I water to establish it?
    It may get some watering from the nearby popup spray heads. We can also give it the recommended occasional deep soaks of watering

    • Ross Shrigley-Plant Select says:

      Giant sacatons are good plants in all types of soil, so no need to amend. Water them a few times per week to start and then back off to once per week after a month. You can stop watering these after a couple of years, but the extra water from the sprinkler over spray will make it look great!

  13. Judy Elliott says:

    I have lots (25 – 35) self seeded seedlings of giant sacaton that I’d love to rehome. Any suggestions other than digging all of them up & transporting to Harlequins Nursery in Boulder?

    • Ross Shrigley-Plant Select says:

      Transplant in spring, but be sure they are identified correctly if they are very small. Sharing is caring!

    • Jen Smith says:

      Judy, this is a late reply, but feel free to contact Wild Ones Front Range if you need help digging up your seedlings. They help manage free native plant swaps in June and would love to help you share these.

  14. Valery Lambeth says:

    Do you know the annual minimum rainfall that the Giant Sacaton naturally need? The NCRS factsheet did not have this information. Being a SW Desert
    species how much of this would be during the summer growing season? Here in Idaho’s Treasure Valley we get a whopping 11″ annually, most NOT in the
    summer. I just ordered a flat and need to decide if they need to be relatively close for supplemental watering (after the first summer) or further out…

    • Ross Shrigley-Plant Select says:

      Giant sacaton grass should perform fine with 11″ of precipitation, even if it’s not in the summer. Be sure to get them established well (at least a year) before removing irrigation.

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