Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) is one of our small, native plant treasures.
Habit: It blooms for a month to six weeks in spring and early summer. Blue-eyed grass can be recognized by the clusters of blue, violet, or white flowers with distinctly yellow eyes. Flowers are held a few inches above the narrow, grasslike, tufted clumps of foliage. It is native to the eastern two-thirds of the United States and Canada (Zones 4-9). Even though it goes by such common names as Eastern, stout, and narrow-leaf blue-eyed grass, it is not a grass, but a member of the iris family. Growing 6 to 12 inches tall, this perennial spreads slowly.
Culture: Blue-eyed grass occurs naturally in wet fields and prairies. Its preference is for full sun and damp soil. However, blue-eyed grass gets along well in ordinary, well-drained but moist garden soil in sun to partial shade.
To maintain healthy and vigorous plants, divide clumps in early spring or fall every two or three years. Shearing back immediately after bloom will prevent the formation of unwanted seedlings and neaten up the planting. Most gardeners have friends who appreciate little starts of such attractive native plants. Simply pot up any extras and wait until the next friend stops by or until the next plant sale. Propagation is easily accomplished by division of clumps or by sowing seeds. Seeds are best planted as soon as they are ripe, However, they will germinate fairly well the following spring if it is not possible to plant them right away.
Uses: For those who are trying to attract wildlife to their gardens, blue-eyed grass will serve well. Bees visit the flowers for pollen or nectar and seeds are attractive to prairie chickens, wild turkeys and songbirds.
It is excellent for rock gardens, cottage gardens, at the front of borders, along pathways and about anywhere else as a wildflower. Use it in woodland areas and allow it to naturalize in informal plantings. Combine it with other low-growing groundcovers like creeping thyme or dwarf sedum in more traditional settings.
Many medicinal uses have been found for blue-eyed grass. Tea made from the roots was used by American Indians for treating diarrhea. Stomachaches were relieved by a tea made from the plants, and other concoctions have been used to treat various stomach and intestinal disorders.
Notes: As many as 31 synonyms are listed; Sisyrinchium bermudiana, S. gramineum, and S. gramnoides. A commonly advertised cultivar 'Lucerne' sports lavender blue flowers and 'Album' has white blossoms. Many species have been identified, and they are usually separated by characteristics like differing branch patterns and leaf lengths.